"We are going to need all hands on deck on Monday, July 21st, because we will have 15 to 25,000 people coming to be a part of our community. It will take a lot of work by all of us to welcome these folks and make them feel at home."
That was the message of Emmetsburg RAGBRAI co-chair Troy Zimmerman to over 100 local residents Thursday evening in a community meeting. The topic of the meeting was the upcoming visit of the Register's Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, which will call Emmetsburg home for an overnight stop on Monday, July 21.
"What we are asking you folks for is your help - as volunteers during the day,"?Zimmerman said. "We have places where all ages can help. Behind the scenes, out at the campgrounds, the beverage garden, helping set up venues, letting people camp in your yards, or even helping clean up. It's more fun to volunteer as a group, so get your family or neighbors together and volunteer."
There are numerous aspects to the visit of RAGBRAI, such as housing, campgrounds, sanitation, recycling, food and vendors, marketing and communications, security and entertainment, just to name a few. Chairs of each of the subcommittees updated the public on what their respective groups are working on, and also explained what they would need in terms of assistance the day of the visit.
Jeremy Ward talked about housing, noting that his biggest need was to find places for up to 20,000 people to park their RV's, pitch their tents, or find a home in which to unroll a sleeping bag.
"We're told we need to have 125 to 150 shower heads available,"?Ward explained. "Right now, I have 80 confirmed. I'm working with Horizons Unlimited on getting recycling containers to be placed around the community to help with cleanup efforts, and of course, we're lining up PortaPotties."
Megan Noonan, chair of Marketing and Communications, urged people to think hospitality.
"We need everyone in the community to really welcome these people and get them excited about our town,"?Noonan said. "We want to give them a true Irish welcome."
Food and Vendors co-chair Dr. Dean VerMulm explained they are planning for up to 45 vendors to be set up on North Broadway, on the east side of Soper Park. A June 1 deadline is in place for applications, with local vendors having priority.
"We want our local vendors to be successful," VerMulm said. "The fee for non-profit groups is $350, a for-profit group fee is $700."
Rick Jones and Brian Rouse explained they are looking for 120 volunteers to staff various positions in the beverage garden at Soper Park and are planning on three shifts of workers, with more workers needed during the night shift, with the operation closing at 1 a.m.
"We need setup crew, servers, ID?checkers, ticket sales and security people," Rouse noted.
"The beverage garden is what pays for all this,"?Jones added. "We hope we have a very successful night."
Val Morton of the Entertainment committee noted that Johnny Holm will be the featured act, and a group, Classical Blast will perform in the late afternoon.
"We're going to put the local applicants for entertainment on our Facebook site next week to allow the public to vote," Morton added.
"It will be business as usual through the county for emergency medical services," Sheryl Darling, Public Safety?co-chair noted. "We will take care of you regardless of how many people are here that day. But, we are planning on having a pair of First Aid stations and will have three patrolling units in town that day."
Palo Alto County Sheriff Lynn Schultes also assured the group that law enforcement would take care of the daily needs of the residents of the city and county, even with a group the size of the population of Fort Dodge coming to Emmetsburg.
"We will have 25 officers on duty that day, which will include all of the Sheriff's deputies, all of the City of Emmetsburg Police officers, the Sheriff's Reserves and the Police Reserves, as well as officers from the Iowa Department of Transportation, the State Patrol troopers who assist with the ride, and agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation."
Schultes added, "and, we'll also be dealing with the riders passing through Graettinger too,. And, I've asked the Department of Natural Resources to consider putting a boat in Five Island Lake that day and night to patrol as well, and the Emmetsburg Fire Department will also be on standby as well."
Schultes concluded, "We would just ask people to be help by being alert as they drive in town and in the area on Monday and Tuesday. Be extra patient, and if you can, avoid the main bike routes."
Steve Hoyman of the Ride Right committee noted that they will send letters to every individual along the route departing Emmetsburg and traveling to Forest City in the next few weeks, as they are responsible for that portion of the ride.
"We will remind people that the riders are coming, to be alert and be patient on the roads. We are also working with the county engineers' to identify spots on the route that might need to be addressed for safety's sake as well," Hoyman explained.
Mike Jacobson talked about the challenges of lining up camping spaces for 20,000 people and 700 support vehicles.
"One of my biggest needs will be for 35 to 40 people at these vehicle parking areas to help drivers back up and park," Jacobson noted. "A lot of these folks rent a Ryder or Penske truck and have no clue how to back them up, or how much room they need for a truck."
According to Jacobson, the main campsite will be at Iowa?Lakes, along with secondary campgrounds at Brown-Robbins Park, the Jr. High football field, High School parking lot, Palo Alto County Fairgrounds, Holy Family Parish and Harrison Park.
"This is a huge opportunity for Emmetsburg,"?noted Deb Hite, Chamber of Commerce Director. "It's important to always have our best face on that day. We need to show these folks we're happy they are here."