By MATT MILNER
---- — BONAPARTE — Bonaparte isn't one of RAGBRAI's overnight stops this year, but 20,000 people rolling through town still means you have to make preparations.
In Bonaparte's case, the town hopes the riders will provide a boost for efforts to install new playground equipment in Riverfront Park. The riders are expected to begin arriving at about 7 a.m. Saturday, July 27. Nancy Nelson said the town hopes to have folks out to greet them as “amateur hand wavers” on the bridge into town.
“We're just having whoever we can get,” she said.
While Nelson said she does not have specific estimates for the economic impact RAGBRAI has on towns it passes through, the town does expect to see significant boosts for its shops and businesses.
“Not only do you benefit from the local option sales tax, you benefit from the riders stopping at the stores,” she said. “It's a great opportunity for Bonaparte, and we're happy to have the riders.”
Bonaparte plans to have a city food tent in the park, and a band will play from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. And that's where the focus on the park comes in. Proceeds will go toward an anticipated $30,000 bill for new equipment.
A couple different factors come into play for the plans. One is new regulations for safety at park playgrounds. The passage of time is another.
“We haven't had out playground equipment changed for probably 20 years,” said Nelson.
A new swingset is a highlight for the renovations. Nelson said parents and grandparents are sometimes forced to bounce between two swingsets now if they have children of different ages who need a push. Getting everyone on one piece of equipment should help ease that challenge.
Bonaparte has never been an overnight stop for RAGBRAI, said Nelson, but it was visited as riders made their way through the southern part of the state in 2003.
Several southeast Iowa cities are overnight stops this year, including Oskaloosa and Fairfield.