Local RAGBRAI calling on community to step-up and help
For the first time in 10 years, Spencer is inviting an estimated 20,000 guests, comprised of bicycle riders, support crews and others associated with RAGBRAI to stop in Spencer and enjoy a little bit of northwest Iowa's hospitality in the region's hub city.
The cyclists and traveling support crews will begin rolling onto the Clay County Fairgrounds during the mid-morning hours on Sunday, July 23, and the volunteer group of local organizers have been busy putting detailed plans in place and are anxious to welcome the guests to town. Now they need some community support in the final days leading up to the event to help make everyone feel at home.
"We're doing good," said Bill Campbell, one of the many tasked with coordinating the overnight stay. "After (the local committee's last meeting with the RAGBRAI coordination representative) he said, 'It shows you did good and you guys want everything to be perfect.' It's fine tuned."
"We walked through everything and had some good ideas," said Andrea Wiesenmeyer, another local committee member.
"We have had a great committee and they were for the most part a virgin committee. They've done a tremendous job," Campbell added. "Everything is coming together. We just need the people now to make the plan come together.
Campbell, the Spencer Chamber of Commerce director, stressed the importance of the local residents to step up for this event and make a difference.
"These people coming here are from all walks of life," he said. "There are a lot of business owners who ride. If they like some part of the community, we don't know where that might lead. We are the largest community on the route. With the downturn we're seeing right now, this couldn't come at a better time. They might see an open store front downtown and say, 'I've got something that would be perfect here.'"
"We need to put our best foot forward and show them why we choose to live here, work here and play here as the saying goes," Wiesenmeyuer said.
"If we give them a great experience," Campbell continued, "we are more likely to get a return on a business opportunity, or an industrial opportunity. But if we can't serve the people the way we should. …"
The last time RAGBRAI stopped in Spencer, in 2007, 173 people signed up to work the beverage garden. Fifty-five have signed up to date, well below the required number.
Likewise, help is needed to direct those camping in town, assist as information providers on the shuttle buses which will be running through town as well as other simple, but necessary, jobs associated with ensuring the guests get the best possible care during their brief visit to the community.
"Jill Barr is working with hospitality and she really needs some help ... People and families are needed just to help welcome riders as they come into town. Just to cheer them on and say, 'Welcome to Spencer.' That's kind of a fun job," Wiesenmeyer said.
"Volunteer offers came in pretty good last time. We were good." Campbell said, noting that currently 546 volunteers are needed and 165 have signed up. "We kind of thought it would be after the Fourth of July when people would sign up. But it's been slow."
Campbell suggested that Spencer is fortunate to have the facilities it does to host the RAGBRAI festivities in one central location.
"We don't need as many volunteers as say Algona, or some of these places that are all spread out. We have the facility (the fairgrounds) here to handle most of it," he said.
Other organizations in town such as the Spencer High School Tailtwisters, Spencer Family YMCA, the school buildings and churches are handling coordination of activities at their own facilities as well.
Campbell has asked any individuals or groups interested in joining the volunteer effort to contact the RAGBRAI Committee at email@example.com.