Putting on final touches
With less than 48 hours until the first of 25,000-plus RAGBRAI riders and support crew members roll into town, local artists and volunteers frantically continued the preparation process Wednesday morning, turning their attention to Central Park.
Local artist and photographer Josie Hannes and her husband, Lyle Hannes, began hanging circus pendants in Central Park Tuesday evening, and Josie Hannes, Pam Baumann, Linda VanNostrand and Paul Glossop were downtown early Wednesday morning to continue transforming Central Park into Cirque de Fairfield.
The bandstand was decked out in circus-tent banners. When Friday’s festivities begin, the bandstand will be the entrance and carding area for the beverage garden, aptly dubbed, “The Handle Bar.”
On the northwest corner of Central Park, Glossop assembled a geotropic dome tent. Glossop made the tent with a surplus military parachute and PVC electrical conduit. The structure is secured to the ground with 12 5-foot pieces of 5/8 inch rebar. Glossop had to make sure measurements were exact as he assembled the tent. If they were not accurate, the shape of the tent would be wrong, he said.
“The most challenging part is getting the parachute to go over the super structure,” Glossop said. “Especially if there is a wind.”
Glossop first erected the tent in 2005 at Burning Man, held at Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. He has since assembled it four or five more times. He said this is the first time the tent has been used primarily to support decorations.
When construction was complete, the crew installed a cardboard floor in the tent and then covered it with carpeting. They also hung what Josie Hannes characterized as “a large funky chandelier” inside. The chandelier was made with recycled plastic bottles. The bottles have been painted with glow-in-the-dark paint and Friday night, black lights will be turned on in the tent to create a “mellow chill spot” for people to enjoy, Josie Hannes said.
The tent has been placed in the family-friendly portion of the park so children can enjoy it, as well as adults.
“It’s just going to be a cool hang-out area for people,” Hannes said.
Other park decorations include tutus made for every light pole around the square. Crazy colored mustaches have been created to rest on top of the tutus. Tutus also have been made for many of the trees in Central Park.
A dead tree near the center of the park has been partially painted to serve as an autograph structure for bike riders. Brightly colored Sharpie markers will hang from the tree so riders can sign the tree.
Five 4-by-8-feet circus-themed wooden cut-outs have been built and painted and will be placed on the lawn in Central Park, creating a fun spot for RAGBRAI festivalgoers to take pictures. Face holes have been crafted in the cut-outs so riders and residents can pose as circus characters in their photographs.
Today, decorating continued on West Grimes Avenue where RAGBRAI riders will enter Fairfield on Friday. Two 18-foot columns were erected on both sides of the road. Covered in Tyvek painted with circus motifs, the columns support a bridge across the top that says, “Welcome RAGBRAI.” The bridge also features two giant handlebar mustaches with open mouths underneath. Each mouth sports a gold tooth.
“It’s just something fun,” Josie Hannes said.
Tragedy struck this morning when Mike Carlson was transporting a giant bike he built to the Fairfield Middle School from his home in Suburban Heights. The bike, which is 33 feet long and 18.6 feet tall, hit a telephone wire on Liberty Drive. As a result, a handlebar broke off.
“I didn’t mean to tear it up before we got here,” Carlson said.
Carlson first built the bike as a tribute to RAGBRAI riders when they came through Fairfield in 1997. He rebuilt it this year to serve as a welcome to riders camping at FMS. Carlson said the handlebar repairs will mark “the third time I’ve built it.”
About why he decided to build the bike initially, Carlson said RAGBRAI is a good time.
“I just wanted to do something to add to RAGBRAI,” he said.
While he was disappointed about the accident, Carlson remained in good spirits as he set about the task of rebuilding the front portion of the bike. Friends Rex Tarrence, Richard Taylor, Bob Fischer, Wes Davis and Bryce Vorhies were on site to assist him.
“You give us two hours and we’ll have it fixed,” Carlson said.
Josie Hannes estimates that local artists and volunteers have spent more than 500 man hours creating circus-themed and bike-related decorations throughout the city.
“A lot of work has gone into this by a lot of people,” Hannes said. “Everyone has come together to make this really cool.”
With the bulk of the work done, Josie Hannes is now praying it doesn’t rain. Forecasters are calling for a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms tonight and Friday.
Rain, Josie Hannes said, would be truly unfornuate.
“Oh, well,” she added. “It is what it is.”