Vendors learn rules for RAGBRAI
Local businesses and nonprofit groups are encouraged to fill vendor spots for Fairfield’s RAGBRAI on July 26, said Dennis Lopp, Fairfield RAGBRAI Executive Committee member in charge of public relations, hospitality, web and social media updates, communications and the information center.
Lopp and other Fairfield RAGBRAI Executive Committee members held an hour-long presentation this morning at Fairfield Arts & Convention Center for area businesses and potential vendors. About 45 people attended.
Most of Fairfield’s activities will center around Central Park and the town’s square.
Burlington Avenue, from Main Street to B Street, and adjoining alleys, will close to vehicles sometime the morning of July 26.
“We hope to fill Burlington Avenue with vendors,” said Tammy Jones, Executive Committee member overseeing food, vendors, electricity, entertainment and the beverage garden.
Vendor fees, forms and deadline
Vendor spaces are 25-feet-by-25-feet. Fees are $350 for nonprofits and for-profit vendors will pay $600 per space. A refundable cleanup deposit of $100 is required from all vendors. The deposits will be returned to those vendors who clean up areas used. An electrical fee of $75 will be charged for vendor stalls wanting electricity. All fees are due payable when registering.
Forms to apply to be a food and non-food vendor at Fairfield RAGBRAI and sign-up for electricity are available online at www.fairfieldragbrai.com and are due by June 1.
All food vendors need health inspection permits, and the state health inspector will visit each vendor selling food on the day of RAGBRAI.
Audience questions about guidelines were referred for the time being to the state health inspection and appeals website at www.dia.iowa.gov/food/ and click on the tab for Food & Consumer Safety Home Page.
“If making food and packaging it to sell as a vendor, the food needs to be made or cooked in a certified kitchen,” said Jones.
Vendors cooking onsite do not require a certified kitchen.
“Vendors will line both sides of Burlington Avenue and people will walk down the center,” said Lopp.
Jones said the committee will park a semi-truck in the area to sell ice to vendors. Everything else should be planned to have on hand because vehicle traffic will be restricted downtown.
Fencing will be placed in two parallel rows on the east and north sides of the square to keep sidewalks open for foot traffic, and bicycle parking will be available in the area.
Stores around the square do not need to pay a vendor fee if having sidewalk displays is a normal part of everyday business at the time the city council passed its RAGBRAI ordinance in March.
“If it’s not normal everyday business to have outdoor tables in front of the store, the vendor fees apply,” said Michael Halley, Executive Committee member overseeing housing, campgrounds, showers, recycling and volunteers.
“Businesses on the square really need to keep the sidewalks clear as thoroughfares,” he said. “You’ll get more people inside your store than you can handle.”
Sue Gail of Fairfield serving on the hospitality subcommittee urged merchants and vendors to offer what is unique to them.
“Do what you do best,” Gail said. “And make sure to have enough merchandise or food or supplies on hand. Your uniqueness is your advantage.
“If you have a sidewalk sign, it’s probably not going to be seen, and it could get knocked down,” she said.
Halley said anyone setting up as a vendor and not registered will be shutdown.
“And there will be only one outdoor beverage garden, other vendors are not allowed to sell alcohol,” said Halley.
Restaurants normally serving alcohol as part of everyday business are allowed to serve drinks inside the restaurant.
The Fairfield RAGBRAI beverage garden, sponsored by Golden Eagle Distributing and Michelob, is planned for the east side of the square.
“The beverage garden will strictly enforce 21-year-old and older,” said Jones. “That means if you have your 2-year-old with you, you cannot enter the beverage garden.
“It will set up on the east half of the square on Court Street and run down Broadway Avenue, in front of The Ledger.”
A number of portable toilets also are planned for Broadway Avenue, east by The Ledger and west by Walker’s Office Supply.
Other suggestions from committee members for merchants/vendors included:
• Extend store hours (riders will begin arriving in Fairfield as early as 9 a.m. July 26 with the bulk of riders in town by noon, and entertainment around the square downtown extend until 11:30 p.m.)
• Bicyclists travel light; stores may want to offer deals on shipping merchandise that may not be carried on the road at purchase.
• Nonprofits and churches might consider serving lunch, though dinner will be the heavier-trafficked meal in town.
• A few vending opportunities will be available at campsites, but the committee believes the heaviest traffic will be downtown.
• The majority of riders will be looking for healthy food choices, such as fresh fruit and granola bars, said Lopp.
“But they’ll want a more substantial dinner,” he said.
• Local cell phone providers are being asked to amp up service.
• WiFi should be available for credit/debit card transactions for vendors. Google is working with RAGBRAI and experimenting with a truck traveling the route that provides Internet service, but has a capacity limit of 40 at a time.
• A Saturday morning “good-bye and thanks for visiting” light breakfast is planned at the Maasdam Barns site, sponsored by Fairfield Community Health Center. Lopp said there maybe a few vendor opportunities at “Breakfast at the Barns,” as bicyclists depart traveling south on Highway 1 to Van Buren County July 27.
Committee members still are working on details and plans, and anyone is encouraged to view the Fairfield RAGBRAI website. Apps for smart phones are available to download on the website and email contacts are listed for emailing questions.
Another vendor meeting is planned in June, after the deadline. If space is available for more vendors after June 1, it will open to non-local vendors.
RAGBRAI is the largest non-competitive sporting event in the world, said Lopp.
“Fairfield was chosen as an overnight stop for a reason,” he said. “Welcome this event and give good customer service.
“Statistics show the majority of riders are male, age 45, college-educated and own their own business. Two-thirds of the riders are from outside Iowa. More than half of those from outside the state come from outside the U.S.”
RAGBRAI is a registered trademark and cannot be used by local businesses to advertise (similar to SuperBowl), so merchants and vendors are tasked with coming up with generic references to the bike ride and participants.
“Capitalize on fun,” said Gail. “People from around the world are coming and looking for something unique.”
Josie Hannes, serving on the publicity subcommittee and designer of Fairfield’s RAGBRAI logo, “Cirque de Fairfield, Hold on to Your Handlebars,” said the committee is hoping town decorations will steer away from circus clowns and animals and feature more vintage circus looks, emphasizing “defying gravity” and exotic images.
“Look at the logo for inspiration,” she said. “It has bright colors, spirals and stripes. We plan to hang colorful pendants up high around the square to draw eyes upward. Look at ‘Cirque de Soleil’ images for inspiration.
“Anyone who would like to help with artwork, we need those with woodworking skills and more, please contact me,” she said. “We have a lot of space to decorate.”
Bicyclists will enter Fairfield along Brookville Road from Packwood to Grimes Avenue. A grand entrance to town is planned on Grimes Avenue and the first Fairfield stop for information and guides is planned at the Dexter Soccer Fields along Grimes Avenue.
“Using ropes tied to four telephone poles, then a center pole raised up with ropes slanting down [creating the outlines of a big top] will be the grand entrance,” said Hannes. “We’ll have cutouts featuring our circus theme for photo-ops around the soccer fields.”
Actual hot air balloons are schedule to be on display at the soccer fields as well, to continue the defying gravity theme.
A special RAGBRAI tabloid will be printed, listing all vendors, sponsors, activities, designated campgrounds with bike routes and maps.
“This will be handed out the night before in Oskaloosa,” said Lopp. “Part of your vendor fee pays for your listing and others not designated as vendors will have an opportunity to advertise in the tabloid.
“This will be geared more toward the riders and visitors than local residents. The Ledger will be laying out and printing it. Advertising fees will be available soon. The easiest way to make sure you are in the tabloid is be a vendor or a sponsor.”
Discounts for residents
RAGBRAI committees want to include the community also in building anticipation for the thousands of visitors in July.
Official Fairfield RAGBRAI T-shirts are for sale online, at Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store and at Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
Plans are for the T-shirt to act as a walking coupon, said Terry Baker, co-secretary of the Executive Committee.
“We’d like to have as many local businesses participating in our five Fridays promotion,” said Baker. “Beginning June 28 and continuing through July 26, we’re asking local merchants to offer some type of discount or incentive to shoppers wearing the official RAGBRAI T-shirt. We have four or five businesses already on board with this promotion.”
Contact Baker through the RAGBRAI website for more information.
Residents and local businesses may also want to keep in mind:
• Vehicle traffic will be restricted on bike route streets and around the square for RAGBRAI, including alleys, so locals should plan ahead for scheduled deliveries, appointments, etc.
• Shuttle rides will be available for bicyclists and residents alike. Parking downtown has not been figured out yet.
“It will be congested for a few days,” said Lopp.
• Fairfield Beautification Commission is working to enhance downtown areas before July 26, which will be a lasting benefit to the community.
Fairfield RAGBRAI committees are solely responsible for funding the event, paying for the beverage garden, law enforcement, portable toilets, entertainment, etc., and vendor fees and T-shirt sales go toward these expenses.
Committee members anticipate the event will be profitable and profits will be turned back to the community after expenses are paid.
Everyone is encouraged to check back at the Fairfield RAGBRAI website often as more plans are finalized and posted.