Coralville works to accommodate riders


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To accommodate an army of cyclists participating in RAGBRAI, a city needs an army of workers and volunteers.

This year, Coralville will once again play host to the multitude of riders, the fifth time the city has taken part in the event but the first at the recently developed Iowa River Landing.

Ellen Habel, the Coralville assistant city administrator, said even though the announcement was made only recently, planning has already started.

“We do have some experience with it,” she said. “We are already having a couple meetings this week to get started and get things underway. Right now, the main thing we’re doing is identifying people to lead some of the committees.”

She said the city’s previous experience with RAGBRAI has made planning for the event more streamlined and easier to implement.

Last year, when Mason City, with a population of around 28,000, hosted the cyclists, there was scant evidence they had passed through afterwards, despite an estimated 35,000 extra people had occupied the city just the day before, Mason City officials said. This all came down to what Brent Trout, the Mason City city administrator, said was a lot of proper planning and coordination.

“It went very well, especially from the standpoint of [RAGBRAI] hadn’t been in Mason City for 29 years, and so for us, we had to set up an infrastructure,” he said. “We had nothing to go on from prior events.”

He said the city had to raise funds to provide entertainment, create a list of people who could host riders, put up barricades, section off parts of the city for the entertainment, and create marketing for the event, among a laundry list of citywide initiatives.

Joshua Schamberger, the president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said despite having to plan for and accommodate so many people, he doesn’t see it as a burden but an opportunity.

“I don’t think it puts a strain on anything … I would say that it’s a good opportunity for the community,” he said.

Schamberger, who’s been involved with RAGBRAI in Coralville three times before, said there will be an advisory board of five to six people and between 20 to 21 committees in charge of setting up infrastructure for the event.

A lot of what to do, he said, comes from the RAGBRAI organization, which provides each city with how-to guide.

“All of that is very spelled out in about as detailed a textbook how to host RAGBRAI that they produce — that RAGBRAI gives each town — so it’s very process oriented,” he said.

Coralville Chief of Police Barry Bedford said his department is exceptionally busy during RAGBRAI, but it’s nothing it can’t handle.

“We’ll be busy, and everybody will probably be working overtime during the event, so it’ll be a little bit of financial strain and a lot of work,” he said.

He said his dealings with RAGBRAI in previous years have been challenging but also positive for the community.

RAGBRAI riders rarely get into trouble, he said, and if anyone is arrested, it may be a Coralville resident having a little too much fun.

“Things do not get out of hand,” “I think in the four times they’ve been here … I think we’ve only had one or two arrests of RAGBRAI participants,” Bedford said.

“We tend to arrest more local people because they come up to the party, and they get a little bit carried away.”

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