Fairfield shares RAGBRAI notes with other towns
Fairfield Executive RAGBRAI Committee’s six co-chairs attended a conference in Des Moines last week to network and discuss strategy with the seven other host communities’ representatives and RAGBRAI staff.
“All eight overnight communities were represented plus RAGBRAI staff,” said Dennis Lopp, one of Fairfield’s co-chairs. “Each community had a chance to tell about their events and share information.”
People asked questions, shared ideas and learned how other communities solved issues, said Lopp.
“Our Fairfield group is ahead of the curve or on par with the other communities,” said Michael Halley. “We’re not behind anyone in planning and being ready for RAGBRAI.”
Each community shares similar challenges to provide camping and housing, food and entertainment to riders and support teams, as well as raising the necessary funds to host an event of this magnitude, said Lopp.
“We compared notes with other host communities and got advice from experienced organizers,” he said. “It was helpful to see, for example, that our vendor fees are right in line with — and in some cases — lower than other communities.”
Halley said other people at the conference were interested in what the co-chairs from Fairfield had to say.
Fairfield’s idea to sell T-shirts now and use them as a type of walking coupon for local discounts was a big hit and other communities vowed to try it, he said.
Many towns organize the event through their local chamber of commerce, which Fairfield did in the past.
“This year Fairfield RAGBRAI organized as a nonprofit corporation to better manage the insurance and other contracts needed for this event,” said Halley. “Other communities were interested to hear about that aspect of our handling contracts and insurance.
“People really wanted to hear when one of us spoke because of our levels of professionalism and creativity,” he said.
Both the city of Fairfield and Jefferson County contributed donations as a portion of the budget for Fairfield RAGBRAI.
“Expenses for additional security, shuttles, portable toilets, maps, signs and entertainment will total much more,” Halley said. “These expenses are covered by T-shirt sales, vendor fees and beverage garden sales as well as sponsorships from local businesses.”
Lopp said a challenge for all the host communities is housing.
“I know it will come,” he said. “We’ll just keep asking and people will volunteer.”
Lopp said several local vendors have signed up for Fairfield RAGBRAI, and a few nonlocal vendors as well.
“We encourage local vendors to still sign-up,” said Lopp.
Halley said Fairfield has the longest gap for hosting overnight riders among the eight communities this year.
“This is a chance to clear up some misconceptions,” he said. “The last time Fairfield hosted, 16 years ago in 1997, the route didn’t come directly through town. It was a blistering hot day and many riders opted to stay south of town and not double-back into town. Some of our vendors had food left.
“A lot has changed in 16 years,” said Halley. “There are more people riding in RAGBRAI, the route comes directly through Fairfield and there are no alternative routes.
“We want to ensure our event is profitable and doesn’t lose money, because we’d like to be able to do this again. The economic impact for our community is so good,” said Halley. “We want Fairfield RAGBRAI to be a big success so we can continue to host RAGBRAI every opportunity we get. The communities hosting every five years or so enjoy a welcome economic bump and find it easier each time.”
Lopp said he was interested to learn of the different challenges a host community faces depending on the day of the week it hosts.
“Riders will be leaving Council Bluffs on a Sunday morning,” he said. “The route passes about 17 churches. So a logistics challenge for them is getting bicyclists on their way and allowing locals to get to church.”
Fairfield is the final overnight stop on RAGBRAI 2013, a Friday night, July 26, with riders leaving town Saturday morning.
“A lot of riders will finish in Fairfield,” said Lopp. “They won’t continue on Saturday to Fort Madison, so there will be extra people coming in to pick up riders.”
Halley said he learned about “Code Red” from another community and wants to look into using it.
“It’s an app used by governmental agencies that pushes out messages about road closures, weather conditions and other information,” he said.
Fairfield RAGBRAI needs more volunteers, more funding and more housing, said Lopp.
“I encourage everyone to buy a T-shirt,” Lopp said. “Local stores and merchants will have discounts and specials on the five Fridays beginning June 28 to anyone wearing a Fairfield RAGBRAI T-shirt.”
T-shirts are available in two colors and many sizes at Fairfield Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store at the customer service counter and at Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce office. The T-shirts feature the Josie Hannes-designed logo “Cirque de Fairfield — Hold on to Your Handle Bars.”
“All of our challenges — housing, volunteers, funding — are getting resolved,” said Halley.
“If all goes well and Fairfield RAGBRAI brings in more revenue than expenses, profits will be donated to local nonprofits who participated in the event,” said Halley. “Funds will be administered through a grant process following the event.
“We’re hoping to be able to give back to area nonprofit organizations who help make this event a success by providing volunteers, participating as vendors and/or being sponsors,” said Halley.
For all things Fairfield RAGBRAI go online to www.fairfieldragbrai.com.