OTTUMWA — While some of the larger towns have been chosen as overnight spots for RAGBRAI 2013, the smaller, pass-through communities on the route are providing memorable moments, too.
The Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa will bring riders through southeast Iowa on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27.
The Friday schedule will take riders from Oskaloosa through Cedar, Fremont, Hedrick, Martinsburg and Packwood to the night's stop in Fairfield. On Saturday, they'll go through Birmingham, Keosauqua, Bentonsport and West Point before stopping in Fort Madison for the end of the ride.
In Fremont, all the nonprofits in town are combining to work as one to make a one-of-a-kind stop. It all begins with breakfast in the community center — biscuits and whole-hog sausage gravy, fruit, Amish sweet rolls and pie with beverages will get the day started right, Mayor Edd Elder says.
There will be a DJ in town for the morning, and the fire department will have a free water bottle filling station. Other vendors and restaurants in town will have beverages and breakfast as well. The 4-H will have picture sessions and possibly even cow milking demonstrations. Elder says the committee is even planning some Burma Shave-style signs to let riders know how close they are to Fremont and some really great food.
But Elder says the star attraction of the day will be the bike racks in the middle of town. A giant quad-track Case International tractor will be set up at the west end of Main Street with a cable attached to an antique tractor. Riders can hook their bike handles over the cable and go enjoy the breakfast and activities. A second set of tractors will be ready at the east end of Main Street as well.
"There are a lot of riders who are coming from non-farming areas, and they've probably only seen these out in the fields," Elder said. "This will get them up close to these monsters and have some fun for the morning. If they get off their bikes, they'll stay a bit."
Officials are going to shut down Highway 23 through Fremont on Friday morning. Elder reminds local residents needing to be out that day that they will need to find alternate routes.
This is the first time RAGBRAI has gone through Fremont. Elder says it's been all around their community but never been passed through. The excitement this is creating will make for a fun day.
"I think it will be four hours of total chaos, but really fun chaos," Elder said. "Most of these folks are really nice. This is their vacation, and they're having a nice ride. We're really excited."
That same excitement is gearing up in Hedrick as well. The town of 754 people will be the meeting place along Friday's leg of the ride. Mayor Tommy Smith says this is the city's opportunity to share its highlights with the rest of the state.
"We have a new veterans museum and the civic center," which has been extensively renovated over the past few years, Smith said. "Since we're a meeting town, our population is going to grow by over 10,000 that day. For a few hours, we'll be able to provide a service for those folks and give them a place to gather."
Many people and organizations are volunteering their services and talents as well. Smith says there are about 15 vendors who will be set up in the city park and at the civic center. A DJ will provide music and entertainment, pies will be available for purchase and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will be involved throughout the day.
RAGBRAI last came through Hedrick in 2009 but because the route went along the Hedrick/Agency Road, the town itself didn't see that many riders. Smith says they'll make up for that this year and show that special southeast Iowa hospitality.