Coralville pumped for RAGBRAI


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In months, thousands of cyclists will make their way through Coralville, and locals met Tuesday to begin planning for the RAGBRAI overnight stop.

Beer-company representatives wanted to make sure their products are represented on the route. Community members wanted to find out how to get their organizations involved. And a church representative wanted to make sure she would be able to serve healthy food to cyclists.

The gathering of 30 people in the Coralville City Hall Tuesday evening was the first step to finding the 800 volunteers needed to make the RAGBRAI overnight stop in Coralville this summer run smoothly.

Coralville will be the final overnight stop for the 39th-annual Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — RAGBRAI — on July 29.

This will be the fourth time Coralville has hosted the event.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic, I couldn’t think of a better place for RAGBRAI to stop besides Coralville,” said Mark Wyatt, the executive director of Iowa’s Bicycle Coalition and a 10-time participant in RAGBRAI.

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Officials haven’t decided on the town’s decorations, but they’re looking at a tailgate theme, tied to the University of Iowa and the Hawkeyes. Riders would be encouraged to wear a shirt or jersey of their favorite college.

“A lot of marketing efforts will be made to get volunteers this year,” said Laurie Haman, the publicity chairwoman of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Josh Schamberger, the president of the bureau, said he expects a lot more people involved with RAGBRAI this year. He said the event has grown exponentially and expects between 15,000 and 20,000 riders, plus support crews, to come through Coralville. All of the hotels in the area are booked for that weekend, he said.

There have been a lot of changes since the last time the event came to Coralville in 2006, he said, and officials will announce the headline band Feb. 21.

“RAGBRAI has really taken it to another level as far as entertainment goes in the past couple years,” Schamberger said.

There are three opportunities for people to volunteer: on the day of RAGBRAI, serving on one of the committees, or opening their homes to riders.

Debbie Hatz, a member of the Coralville United Methodist Church, said her church served approximately 500 riders last time Coralville hosted the event.

“By the time they get to us, they’re looking for cool accommodations and a hot meal,” she said. “We offer homemade and healthier meals and also have vegetarian options.”

Five years ago, the last time RAGBRAI came through Coralville, around 700 volunteers helped raise more than $24,000 for the city.

Coralville split the funds among the Coralville Community Foundation, the Coralville Aquatic Center, Northwest Junior High, Kirkwood Elementary, and Coralville Central Elementary — the schools in the area.

In 2006, Lance Armstrong made an appearance at the stop in Coralville, and officials say there is a reasonable chance that he might come back again.

“It’s good for marketing and advertising to show off Coralville to the entire country,” Schamberger said. “We’re aiming to be the ‘It’ town for this year’s RAGBRAI.”

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