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Coralville expecting thousands for RAGBRAI event

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | JULY 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kathie Miller, 50, steadied the green metal stake as Barb Cullinan, 54, hammered it into the ground.

Indifferent about the intense afternoon heat, the two RAGBRAI volunteers hung a banner from stake to stake reading "Mascot Challenge" during their four-hour shift in Coralville's Morrison Park on Thursday.

"I like to be a part of things," Cullinan said. "I'm just a volunteer kind of person."

With more than 400 volunteers taking on 500 shifts between Thursday and Saturday, people such as Miller and Cullinan make Coralville's RAGBRAI stopover possible.

"[RAGBRAI] is just a chance to showcase the community, the hospitality, and that's the business I'm in," said Cullinan, who is from Robins, Iowa, but works at the Heartland Inn in Coralville.

And, in accordance to hospitality, more than 100 volunteers have offered their homes to riders as hosts, said Ellen Habel, the Coralville assistant city administrator and RAGBRAI volunteer coordinator.

"We want to make sure that it's a safe event, that people have fun, and that they're able to find everything they need," she said. "We've certainly done all of the planning and preparation we can to make sure we have a successful event."

Cullinan, like other volunteers, has a history of volunteering for the event, having hosted riders and volunteered for RAGBRAI stopovers in three other communities in the past.

"It's a great way of meeting new people," she said. "It's a great networking opportunity."

Cullinan will work another shift tonight at the beer garden.

Miller, a second-time volunteer, enjoys volunteering in general, as well.

"I think it's a neat event," she said, even though she is not a bicyclist. " I have the time, so I'm filling the time by volunteering."

This year, Miller is only able to devote one shift of her time to the event.

"It's not necessarily in the community where I'm living now," said Miller, who resides in North Liberty. "But it is a community where I'm involved."

And a lot of the events that the community has wouldn't be possible without volunteers, she said.

Doug Elliott, 52, of Cedar Rapids is excited about his first ever RAGBRAI volunteer experience, having been nudged into the situation by friend and colleague Habel.

"I've always watched RAGBRAI from afar, and this is a way for a lazy person to contribute and participate," he said.

He will work the beverage garden tonight, jamming to the 38th special concert.

"My two jobs are to serve beer and listen to music," he said and laughed. "I felt that I was qualified."

The director of East Central Iowa Council of Government sees a huge sense of community in the event that he'll now be apart of.

As a traveler, Elliott said RAGBRAI always comes up in conversations about Iowa.

"Now I can say, 'No, I've never ridden on RAGBRAI, but I have served beer,' " he said.


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