Riders roll into town
Early morning rain didn’t prevent RAGBRAI riders from starting their trek from Oskaloosa to Fairfield this morning.
Riders reported the heaviest rain had stopped by 5 a.m. in Oskaloosa and many cyclists began their ride as scheduled. By 8:30 a.m., bikers were beginning to trickle into Packwood at a steady pace, many stopping for breakfast at the community-sponsored food tent.
More than 225 Packwood community volunteers were serving ham and cheese croissants, grilled chicken breasts, grilled tenderloins, bananas, hard boiled eggs, homemade pie, Schwan’s ice cream, Gatorade, lemonade and iced tea. They were prepared to feed as many as 2,000 riders – not too shabby for a town whose total population is just more than 200.
Because cyclists were just beginning to come in and the line at the food booth was just starting to form, Packwood locals Fred Wells and Don Snakenberg took time to chat on a hay bale. Wells said his primary hope was that the rain would remain at bay.
“This thing is quite an ordeal,” he said.
2013 marks the sixth time RAGBRAI has passed through Packwood and each time, the community has taken advantage of the opportunity to raise money for their town, Mayor Dave Dickey said.
The first three times RAGBRAI came through, the Packwood Lions Club, Packwood Fire Department, Packwood Christian Church and TTT each had separate food booths. The problem with that, Dickey said, was that some people belonged to all four organizations and some didn’t belong to any. Now, the community works together under the city’s insurance and the RAGBRAI planning committee decides how to spend the money for the betterment of the whole town.
Clad in a shirt that said, “Packwood: God’s gift to Iowa,” Dickey said the best thing about RAGBRAI is the community spirit it breeds. Every member of the Packwood and surrounding community was contacted and asked to participate, Dickey said.
“We call everyone and give them the opportunity to be involved,” he said. “That’s the best thing about this – all of us coming together as a whole. We’ve got first graders and we’ve got 41st graders here helping.”
In 2000, food sales to RAGBRAI riders generated $10,000 in profits, Dickey said. In the end, they donated $4,000 to Packwood Little League, built lighted basketball courts in “uptown Packwood” and bought and installed signs at the north and south entrances to the town.
Dickey said in 2009, the community “took in 23,000 wet, stinky dollars,” generating a profit of $13,000. The funds again went to support Packwood Little League and also, to build an electronic community sign.
“Jody Hollingsworth can run that thing from all over the United States,” Dickey boasted. “She does a great job with it.”
This year, the committee, spearheaded by Dickey, Deb Woodruff and Judy Dickey, has not yet decided how fundraising dollars will be used. There has been talk about installing a security camera system at the Packwood school bus stop and park area and purchasing an electronic locating program for the cemetery, enabling visitors to easily find grave sites, Dave Dickey said.
“Like I said, this is a great thing for the community,” he said.
“And, you’re providing a great service,” RAGBRAI rider David Jones, added.
A member of the Waterloo city council, Jones said this is the second time he’s participated in the bicycle ride across Iowa. Each time, he’s especially enjoyed seeing the small towns the cyclists pass through.
“As a city council member, you get to see what’s working well in these towns and what [Waterloo] can aspire to,” Jones said.
Jones said he’s also enjoyed the weather this year.
“The weather has been great. You’ve had the wind at your back,” he said.
“I’ll take credit for that,” Dickey said, smiling.
Volunteer Julie Johnston said she’d been told by riders that Packwood’s food booth was the most well-organized stand of the whole route.
“This one is really nice,” a rider, confirmed.
Another rider from Fairfield who stopped just north of Packwood said while he frequently rides his bike on the dirt and gravel roads of Jefferson County, he has never participated in RAGBRAI before. He decided to ride this year when he learned the route would include both Oskaloosa and Fairfield.
“My mom lives in Oskaloosa so I had a place to stay,” he said.
The rider said he left Oskaloosa about 5 a.m. – an hour earlier than RAGBRAI organizers suggest – because he wanted to “beat the heat and beat the mob.” He made it to Packwood by 7:45 a.m. and said he was looking forward to the last 12 miles.
While RAGBRAI organizers predicted the bulk of riders would be in Fairfield by 9 a.m., only a small number of cyclists made it to the city limits by that time.
Riders said because temperatures have been mild this year, many cyclists started their journey later than normal.
RAGBRAI festivities downtown begin a 2 p.m. when the beer garden – The Handle Bar – opens. Formal entertainment begins at 3 p.m. with the Jeremy Rowland Band, a blues group, performing in Central Park.
A full list of scheduled activities appeared in the Ledger Thursday.