By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
SIGOURNEY ? While this year Washington won?t be a host town for the 46th running of the Register?s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI); however, people wishing to be part of the annual festivities can still catch up with the ride for at least one night as it camps out close to Washington County.
Over the weekend, it was announced that Sigourney, which is about 35 miles west on Highway 92, will serve as an overnight stop for RAGBRAI on July 26. The town, with a population just over 2,000 people, has hosted RAGBRAI twice in the past, in 1975 and 1995. Riders will travel to Sigourney from Newton and from there will proceed to Iowa City.
?The overnight towns are the backbone of the RAGBRAI experience,? RAGBRAI?s director T.J. Juskiewicz said. ?Each night is different with different campgrounds, foods and entertainment. Each night is a different adventure.?
About 10,000 registered riders, with participants hailing from all 50 states and a host of international locations, descend on Iowa every year to be part of the ?oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world,? according to the RAGBRAI website.
RAGBRAI was founded in 1973 by two Des Moines Register columnists, Donald Kaul and John Karras.
Washington Chamber of Commerce director Michelle Redlinger said Washington hasn?t applied to become a host community since 2016. She said the chamber hasn?t received an application renewal since being a host town. She believes wqashington will begin applying again in the next few years.
Redlinger also said that with the announcement of Sigourney being an overnight stop only having just been made, no one from Sigourney has asked her for help. She believes hosting RAGBRAI will be great for Sigourney and hopes people from the community take advantage of the opportunity.
?One of the things I think made Washington successful was communicating with the community about what the plans are and trying to get as many people involved as possible so it really was a community event,? Redlinger said. ?I also think they need to try to use what the area already has for things to showcase or ways to make the riders remember your area. Don?t reinvent the wheel, but use what you have and do your best to be a hospitable community. I think they will find a lot of people will want to come back and will have a great experience.?
On July 29, 2016, Washington became the overnight stopping point for the RAGBRAI 44 riders. Over 300 Washington volunteers donated an estimated $300,000 in labor to the event. Planning for the event was a lot of work, with members of the planning committee each working an average of 10 hours per week for six months to plan the event. Executive chairs averaged 20 hours of planning per week for six months, totaling almost $100,000 worth of labor. Team leaders also put in between 16 and 22 hours of work on July 29 and then got up four hours later to help with cleanup.