By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
Oskaloosa is rolling out the red carpet for RAGBRAI riders when they come rolling into Oskaloosa July 25.
A group of about 58 people are working to organize all the infrastructure and entertainment for an estimated 12,000 RAGBRAI bicyclists and their support teams for RAGBRAI XLI. This year will be the fourth time Oskaloosa has been an overnight stop for the week long bike ride across Iowa.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for us,” Oskaloosa Chamber Executive Director Jon Sullivan said at a townhall meeting this past Thursday evening.
When Oskaloosa hosted a RAGBRAI overnight stop in 2003, there were 42 recreational vehicle for organizers to deal with. This year, there is expected to be 600 RVs stopping overnight in Oskaloosa.
Oskaloosa RAGBRAI planners say they need about 800 volunteers to help with the event.
Members of the Oskaloosa RAGBRAI Executive Committee gave the audience a run down of various committees and their activities to prepare for the event.
Karen Hafner, of the Oskaloosa Chamber, is overseeing the beverage garden, food vendors and entertainment.
The Oskaloosa city square will be the site of the beverage garden. The beverage garden will have an area for families and non-drinkers located by the Chief Mahaska statue.
“It’s going to take a lot of volunteers to run the beverage garden,” Hafner said.
The performance stage for the day’s entertainment will be located at the northeast corner of the square from Hawkeye Real Estate on High Avenue to in front of the county court house on First Street.
Musical entertainment will begin at 2 p.m. with a disc jockey who will play music until 5:30 p.m. Then, the Oskaloosa City Band will take the stage at 6 p.m. for an hour. At 7 p.m., The Nadas will perform from 7:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Then, the headliners — The Fishheads — will rock the stage from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Hafner said that Market Street from Highway 92 south to Third Avenue will be closed off for food vendor stands.
Herald Publisher Deb Van Engelenhoven spoke for Executive Committee member Marsha Riordan. She said that the Communications Committee has designed a theme and logo for Oskaloosa’s RAGBRAI day.
“Yes, we’ve been very secretive,” Van Engelenhoven said of the theme and logo.
The committee unveiled the theme and logo at the townhall meeting. The theme is “Ride Hard, Dance Harder” and the logo features a pig sporting a bike helmet and a tutu. Committee members also modeled Oskaloosa RAGBRAI T-shirts with the logo on front and the Oskaloosa motto “Note the Difference” on the back. The T-shirts are for sale for $12 up to size XL and $14 for larger shirts.
Oskaloosa School Superintendent Russ Reiter spoke about the budget, transportation housing and campground committees that he oversees.
The Budget Committee will handle the event finances and the Transportation Committee handles the transportation for the RAGBRAI crowd.
Reiter said Oskaloosa school buses will be used to shuttle people to and from campgrounds to events.
Also, Reiter said he had forms people could take if they wanted to host RAGBRAI riders for one night.
“I had four emails from school administrators from around the state the day after Oskaloosa was announced as an overnight stop,” he said.
Reiter said that RAGBRAI officials conferred with the Campground Committee and designated the Lacey Complex and Oskaloosa Elementary School grounds as the primary campground. Edmundson Park is the No. 2 camping area and other designated campgrounds include the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds, the William Penn University campus, the former Vennard College grounds, the practice fields behind the Oskaloosa Middle School and High School, the Community Stadium on North Second Street, and the Gateway Nazarene Church grounds.
Rob Taylor talked about the Law Enforcement Committee, and the shower and toilet situation.
Taylor said that Police Chief John “Jake” McGee is planning for between 15,000 and 20,000 people to be visiting Oskaloosa on RAGBRAI day. The beverage garden can hold about 8,000, he said.
McGee plans to have 40 law enforcement officers on duty that day.
Taylor said people can use showers at the schools and at William Penn University. Also, there will be portable showers and toilets for people to use.
An Oskaloosa High School group will conduct a towel drive soon to collect linens for RAGBRAI people to use during their visit. Also, the Oskaloosa High School Shooting Team will collect recyclable cans and bottles from around the community and keep the deposits for team expenses, he added.
Taylor also mentioned the Information Center that will be set up to be the point of contact for people coming into the community.
Taylor concluded with a discussion of a RAGBRAI group visiting Oskaloosa in June. They will ride bikes along the routes through the community to inspect the route and map it with GIS mapping.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org