DeWitt City Hall

When the city of Maquoketa recently opted out of hosting the final overnight stop on the 2021 RAGBRAI route, it created an opening in the cross-state bike ride’s schedule. 

DeWitt may look to take advantage of it and fill the void as a host town. The  prospect requires hundreds of volunteers and an entire town buy-in, said DeWitt City Administrator Steve Lindner. 

The 2020 Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa was cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic concerns, and its route was copy-pasted to 2021. 

Maquoketa backed out due to multiple scheduling conflicts, including the Jackson County Fair and a street project that will shut down the town’s main thoroughfare, Platt Street. 

RAGBRAI organizers needs to find a town somewhere between Anamosa — the route’s penultimate overnight stop — and Clinton for the July 30 overnight before riders perform the traditional tire dip in the Mississippi in Clinton.

Lindner said organizers reached out to the city about the prospects of hosting the event, and provided some basic requirements. 

“They sent us a guide, and we had a basic discussion about it,” Lindner said. “They feel like this year they will have 10,000 – 12,000 people involved and 1,700 support vehicles. It’s a huge undertaking.”

Lindner said overnight towns typically provide entertainment in the form of live music and ensure there is enough food to go around. They also provide medical services and law enforcement.

“It’s all hands on deck; everyone is involved, from church groups to non-profits,” Lindner said to the council last week. “It’s an opportunity to showcase the community and those nonprofits can do well in fundraising. And stores will have 12,000 people to sell to.

“Think about the largest downtown party we’ve ever had in DeWitt and take it times two,” Lindner said. “And you still probably aren’t close.”

Bikers would enter DeWitt on Lake Street and use Sixth Avenue as the route’s main thoroughfare through town. They would then leave town following Humseton Road, Lindner said. 

RAGBRAI asks host towns to provide at least of 40 acres of greenspace throughout the community to accommodate campers. Typically, residents also can sign up to host campers in their yards. 

Lindner also detailed some of the difficulties associated with overnight hosting. 

“We don’t want to have a deficit because of the amount of effort we have to put into it, with our police department and everyone,” Lindner said. “From when (riders) start arriving Friday morning until they leave Saturday morning, you have 12,000 people in your town. There are some negatives with that.”

Lindner said RAGBRAI recommends up to 20-plus planning committees with 10-20 people apiece. 

City officials plan to contact other towns that have hosted in the past and research the pros and cons. 

Lindner said RAGBRAI needs to know DeWitt’s level of commitment by Nov. 16.