CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - RAGBRAI organizers in Cedar Rapids now have a firm plan in place to host upwards of 20,000 riders in late July.
The thousands of riders streaming into Cedar Rapids on July 26th will arrive from Marshalltown. The 85-mile route will be the longest on the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). Riders will arrive in the city by turning from Covington Road on Ellis Boulevard N.W. and following the Cedar River into the city and two of the three overnight camping stops.
On Friday July 27th, the riders will depart for the next stop in Anamosa by winding along 1st Street N.W., C Street N.W. and then turning on 16th Ave. S.W. and proceeding through both Czech Village and across the 16th Avenue Bridge to the New Bohemia district.
Organizers picked "Survivin' the Ride" as the theme for the overnight stop in Cedar Rapids with "party on the island" to denote all the entertainment taking place downtown around May's Island. And both the route itself, and entertainment downtown, will try to showcase how far the city has recovered since the flood of 2008.
Two years ago, business owners in Czech Village probably hadn't recovered enough from flood damage to really feel good about showing off for visitors.
But Calvin Spinka, president of the Czech Village Association, said riders now will see a lot of new and recovered businesses as they head out of town.
"I think it's something to be proud of, we are coming back. It wasn't easy, but it's happening," Spinka said.
Jennifer Pickar, RAGBRAI Publicity Chair, said putting a best foot forward for all RAGBRAI visitors is something every host community does automatically. But in Cedar Rapids, some of that planning will also take the ongoing flood recovery into account.
Flood-damaged homes still set for demolition this summer will disappear on a ride-route-first priority.
Residents along Ellis Boulevard N.W. will have to endure lots of traffic during the ride. But the reward will be lots of civic improvements before riders get here.
"It's a great time for the city, and businesses, to spiff up a little and be really welcoming," Pickar said.
John Rocarek, owner of Sykora Bakery, said busy doesn't quite cover what's coming later this summer. In addition to the RAGBRAI ride, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library will finally reopen after years of flood recovery and a highly-publicized of the museum building itself. And it will all happen in the space of less than two weeks.
"It's going to be hectic and crazy and we're all taking our vacations now," Rocarek said.
In addition to the route, RAGBRAI organizers have also picked the camping sites for thousands of bicyclists and supporters. The majority will go to Ellis Park with a smaller number headed to Cherry Hill Park and the Veterans Memorial Stadium area.