RAGBRAI riders make a pit stop in Kalona Friday

By Gretchen Teske, The JOURNAL


KALONA ? Kalona had three times as many bikes as people in town on Friday. Over 8,000 bikers from around the world rode through Kalona on their way to Riverside. The RAGBRAI experience was coming to an end on Friday, but that would not stop bikers and Kalona residents from having a good time.

Matt Nonnenmann only had to step out his front door to see the riders. Nonnenmann?s home was along the route and said he saw the first visitors around 8 that morning. ?I hadn?t understood the scale of the race,? he said, referring to how many riders would actually be riding through. ?But they just keep coming down the street. It?s like infinite riders.?

He said everyone who rode by had a positive attitude and greeted him by saying ?good morning.? He says it was exciting to see so much happening in the small, usually quiet town. Nonnenmann was excited to have RAGBRAI riders come through town and said the experience overall was unique and exciting. ?I think any town that has had RAGBRAI (come) through would never regret it,? he said. ?There?s so many positives and friendly people.?

As the riders rolled in, businesses and locals lined the streets to welcome them. The Mid-Prarie pep band played on the corner and kids held homemade signs, thanking the riders for riding by. The Kalona Brewing Company even had employees on bikes, ushering riders to their tent, advertising their food, water and beer available. Sales and distribution manager Cody Rose said this was the biggest event he?d ever seen in Kalona and was excited to be a part of it any way possible. ?We?ve been preparing for this for months now,? he said. ?We canned about 8,000 cans of water that we?ve been handing out during the whole route. We started in Ames and we?ve been going town to town.?

The day proved to be a learning experience and sight to see for parents and students alike. Marianne Reha-VanRoekel worked with the Mid-Prarie fine arts boosters to raise money for new band uniforms. She said it?s very important for students to get to experience RAGBRAI in their hometowns because it?s a unique experience delivered to them. ?I think it?s awesome that they?re able to see this,? she said. ?A lot of these people aren?t even from our state, they come from other states. I think it?s a great experience for them.?

Rhonda Yoder of the Kalona Coffee House agreed that bringing the excitement to Kalona was a good experience. While other shops opted to have outdoor tents, the coffee house instead opened their doors and allowed visitors to come in. ?It?s been a lot of fun,? she said. ?We?ve had multiple people out there telling us thank you for providing this for them and that this is what keeps them going.? The ride has never been through Kalona before but Yoder says she would welcome them back anytime. ?Obviously the goal is to make it welcoming enough that they want to come back and experience Kalona instead of just riding through, but this is a really good taste of what they could experience if they came for longer,? she said. ?We really hope they feel the hospitality and are blessed by what they get here.?