Planning for DeWitt’s July 30 RAGBRAI stop is full steam ahead, and as the weeks pass, plans for the event that will bring an estimated 20,000 people to town are materializing.
Angela Rheingans, the DeWitt Chamber & Development Co. Executive Director, said she expects DeWitt’s downtown district to be closed off to traffic — especially the downtown Sixth Avenue corridor — beginning at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29. That road closure will give ample time for volunteers to set up barricades, the beverage garden, and other necessary infrastructure for the event. It will also provide vendors time to set up their spaces.
“You will still be able to get out, but we want to stop people from getting in,” she said.
Closures will include some side streets as well.
The route on which the RAGBRAI riders will be encouraged to follow in town has changed from previous reports. Instead of coming into town via Lake Street, which the city had previously reported, the riders will instead weave their way to DeWitt on 255th Street south of Grand Mound, turn north onto 260th Avenue, and then turn onto 225th Street, ride past Wendling Quarries, cross Silver Creek, and then ride into town on 18th Avenue. From there they will snake their way to the DeWitt Fitness Center, where the official welcome center will be set up.
At the welcome center, riders will be given informational packets, and possibly take a souvenir photo, before they make their way downtown, or to the campgrounds.
The big day
Rheingans said some riders like getting an early start, and the first ones will start trickling into town by 8 a.m. on Friday, July 30th. Shortly after, the riders’ support vehicles will begin arriving and multiple campsites will be set up. The campgrounds will be scattered throughout town.
“They will cover about 50 acres and we are anticipating about 10,000 campers in the spaces,” Rheingans said.
The campgrounds will occupy many of DeWitt’s largest green spaces, including the Central DeWitt high school campus, Ekstrand Elementary, the Clinton County Fairgrounds, Westbrook Park, Little Trees Park, Paarmann Park, and Ashindel Park.
“We have been assured we have plenty of room,” Rheingans said.
Homeowners are also welcome to host riders to camp in their yards, a common practice for overnight host towns. Anyone interested can sign up as a host on ragbrai.com by navigating to the “XLVII” tab and then clicking on the DeWitt page.
“You don’t have to let the individuals come into your home,” Rheingans said. “There will be a lot of people coming to the community who will be looking for a place to put their tent … Most of them will be a ‘bandit,’ that is an individual who did maybe not register to ride RAGBRAI but they are along for the ride anyway. And that’s okay. That’s part of the fun.”
Rheingans said there will also be people with campers and recreational vehicles looking for a place to stake claim, even in the street in front of someone’s house.
“They may knock on someone’s door and ask if you mind if they park their RV in front of your house,” Rheingans said.
The majority of the riders will arrive in DeWitt by the middle of the afternoon July 30, with the largest swath coming through town between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Rheingans said.
“They will come in and hopefully stop at our welcome center, and then will go straight to their campsites,” she said. “Then find a shower, and then head downtown to get their dinner and take in the entertainment.”
Music and entertainment will begin downtown around 11 a.m. and stop at 11 p.m. on July 30. No acts have been revealed yet.
“We anticipate we will have multiple performers throughout the day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in our bandshell in Lincoln Park,” Rheingans said.
Music at the larger stage will begin after that.
Rheingans said to expect most riders to clear out of town before lunchtime the following day. They will leave on Humeston Road and travel through Charlotte and Goose Lake along Highway 136 before dipping their tires in the Mississippi River in Clinton, marking the end of the ride.
Organizers continue to seek volunteers who can help with either the planning stages or labor on July 30.
Organizers — who are all volunteers — have been meeting weekly for the past several months combing out details. The executive planning committee includes Rheingans, DeWitt City Administrator Steve Lindner, Julie Hintz, Sarah Juergens, Leanna Bender, Kim Broders, Beth Hughes, Tom Tiefenthaler and Mary Sandry. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact any of them for information or visit the DeWitt Ragbrai website, call the DeWitt Chamber & Development Co. at (563) 659-8500, or email email@example.com.
For more information also visit Facebook and Twitter @dewittragbrai.
Rheingans said those who don’t know if they can commit to volunteering could use their efforts elsewhere.
“You can help with a beautification process,” she said. “Take a stroll along a ditch and clean up a ditch, that would be good. Or maybe there’s some painting you could help with.”
Anyone hoping to host a vendor booth during the event — both for-profit and nonprofit entities — are encouraged to attend an April 14 meeting at 6 p.m. in the DeWitt Community Center. There, Rheingans said she hoped to have vendor applications available.
The DeWitt City Council is in charge of setting the vendor fees, and they are nearly official. Permits will be required for for-profit food sales outside of typical brick-and-mortar establishments, a permit for that is expected to cost $750. A commercial vendor that expands its typical business footprint would also need to pay the fee. There will be fees for electricity use and a refundable cleaning deposit for those businesses.
A nonprofit vendor booth permit will cost $300, with the same electricity and cleaning deposit requirements.
“There is opportunity for our nonprofit organizations to fundraise,” Rheingans said. “COVID has had an impact worldwide, but it’s also eliminated a lot of fundraising events … That was one of the key reasons why we decided to host (RAGBRAI).”
Support from RAGBRAI
The RAGBRAI organization announced in March it would be throwing in $2,000 to incentivize volunteering. That money is on top of the previously-pledged $15,000 for the city of DeWitt to use to cover initial planning expenses, and a second $15,000 to be donated to a community nonprofit.
“They originally wanted us to (donate) to one (nonprofit),” Rheingans said. “I like the idea of doing maybe three – but it’s not my decision, there’s a committee who is working on that deciding how we are going to award that money.
The winner(s) of the $15,000 donation will be announced on the main state on the evening of July 30.