Jefferson and Rippey prepared for 50th RAGBRAI


In a few short days, Greene County will be buzzing with activity, welcoming tens of thousands of bicyclists from around the globe.

On the fourth day of the ride, RAGBRAI L will pass through Jefferson and Rippey en route from Carroll to Ames. Rippey has been established as one of the route’s noon meeting places and will allow riders to connect with their support vehicles.

“It’s nice that we have two chances for Greene County to show what we have,” said Molly Cunningham, the events and tourism coordinator of Jefferson Matters.

Jefferson was one of the RAGBRAI overnight towns in 2018, providing Matt Wetrich, executive director of Jefferson Matters, experience in preparing for such an event. Although still an intricate plan, this year has required less planning. 

“This is a really cool honor for us to be on the route this year,” Wetrich said. “They only asked communities that they’ve had great success with and positive experiences and positive feedback from, so it’s really cool that we were asked to be a part of this big 50th.”

In addition to local restaurants, about 10 vendors will be serving food and drinks in the town square.

Wetrich and Cunningham hope participants will feel enticed to stop in Jefferson to experience the town’s character. 

“It’s the small town charm that makes RAGBRAI a success 50 years going on,” Wetrich said. “Jefferson really is, I think, they’d say one of the poster children for that small town charm of welcoming people from all over the world to our community, and we’re proud of it.”

The Mahanay Bell tower’s fame will make its way into this year’s ride, beckoning the bicyclists to explore its history.

“‘One L of a Ride’ this year is their [RAGBRAI’s] tagline,” Wetrich said. “We played on that, too, and so our logo locally is ‘One Bell of a Ride.’”

As a meeting town, Rippey plans to have over 30 food vendors. Mayor Dan Brubaker, head of Rippey’s RAGBRAI committee, also shared that some “trinket vendors” will be set up.

Another highlight of RAGBRAI’s stop in Rippey will be a signature rock available for participants to sign.

Pete and Yvette Bardole have led the charge for Rippey United Methodist Church’s involvement in RAGBRAI. They plan to have an expanded ice cream social with a variety of fueling options. Their goal is to donate part of their proceeds to Midwest Mission’s Jefferson location and other mission work being done by the congregation.

“When I heard RAGBRAI was coming through Rippey and it was going to be the noon meeting place, I said, ‘Well, the church has got to do something,’” Pete Bardole said.

Having grown up on a farm just outside of Rippey, Bardole recalls working at the church when RAGBRAI passed through in the 1980s. This year, he has witnessed the different groups in the town, such as the Rippey Ballpark Commission, Lions Club and fire department making this experience a collaborative effort.

Leading up to July 25, Bardole is most excited to meet everyone participating in various facets of RAGBRAI. 

“It’s the people that make it,” he said. “With us working, it’s whether it’ll be the people that we meet or the people we work with, that’s the fun, enjoyable part of it all.”

Although the main goal is to provide riders with water, shade and restrooms, each town will also have some entertainment. The Shuffle Couple will be in Jefferson and there will be live music in Rippey.

Some road closures will take place in Jefferson around 8:30 a.m. until around 1:30 p.m. Lincoln Way will be closed between North Grimmell Road and Highway 4. There will be cones, signage, police officers and volunteers redirecting traffic.  

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