Security a top priority in Jones County ahead of annual fair, two bike rides

Bicycle riders progress along RAGBRAI's route in July 2018 (KCRG File)
Bicycle riders progress along RAGBRAI's route in July 2018 (KCRG File)(KCRG)
Published: Jan. 28, 2020 at 6:36 PM CST
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In only about six months from now, tens of thousands of people are expected to descend on Jones County.

That’s because the county will host three events in just two weeks’ time: RAGBRAI, the Great Jones County Fair and for the first time, Iowa’s Ride, a new cross-state biking event.

Iowa’s Ride kicks-off July 12, 2020, starting in Dubuque, stops in Monticello on the 13th and finishes later in the week in Rock Rapids. RAGBRAI begins July 19, starting off in Le Mars, with bikers arriving in Anamosa for the night on July 23. RAGBRAI then finishes up in Clinton.

With so many people in the area at one time, county and city planners said security is their top priority. Greg Graver, Jones County Sheriff, said he estimates up to 30,000 people will check out the county fair this year.

With a department of only 12 deputies and thousands of RAGBRAI goers passing through, Graver said reinforcement is a must.

“Most of the sheriff’s deputies will be working the fair, we won’t have a lot of reliance on them with RAGBRAI, we are looking at other options to help support us for that event,” Jacob Sheridan, the Anamosa City Administrator said.

Graver said the county is prepared for the challenge because this isn’t the first time both events have coincided.

“Having two large events in opposite sides of the county essentially will create a unique challenge, but with the experience everybody has, I think people should feel secure in the fact that we will be able to provide a stable and safe environment,” Graver said.

Graver said his team will help get bikers in town safely but will pass off responsibility to local authorities as they monitor the fair.

“It’s pretty typical that we bring in 12 to 14 outside agencies, that provides about 20 to 25 different law enforcement officers, and there is two private security companies that assist at the fair,” Graver said.

Graver said the fact the fair will be underway at the same time as RAGBRAI might actually help. He said the county brings in an Iowa Task Force One trailer during the fair, which acts as the head of communications for all of the security agencies in the area.

“We are used to networking with EMS, with fire, with emergency management, it’s really nothing new to us and we will just go through the regular chain of command," Graver said. "We’ll get together as a unified command and have a plan and then we’ll put that into action."

Doug Herman, Monticello City Administrator, said he is excited to host Iowa’s Ride for the first time. He said they’ll have a few days between when the ride ends and the fair starts, so he believes it will all play out smoothly and safely.