Vendor fees help the greater good

Jefferson’s day to host the 46th Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is approaching quickly. This year’s RAGBRAI is going to be the largest iteration to date, and the Jefferson RAGBRAI executive committee, advisory board, subcommittees and volunteers have already tallied thousands of hours ensuring that riders leave Jefferson believing we were the best small-town host community on the route.

Thus far, numerous community members have stepped up to organize everything from campgrounds and port-a-pots, to school bus shuttles and publicity for the event. It really has been a team effort and the executive committee is incredibly proud of what has been accomplished since the first RAGBRAI meeting in Des Moines in March.

Unfortunately, there are always a few individuals who look to profit without contributing to the greater effort. As such, the executive committee would like to reiterate the mission of Jefferson RAGBRAI and to outline some of the financial planning required for such an event.

First and foremost, RAGBRAI is an opportunity to showcase Jefferson for what it is: a quaint and lovely town, with hospitable citizens.  

With a new high school on the way and extensive refurbishment of our downtown taking place, Jefferson is a town on the rise.

RAGBRAI offers the possibility for local businesses, churches and nonprofits to reap financial benefits and to showcase our town’s hospitality to riders from all over the world. As one nonprofit organizer noted, the goal for her church in serving riders dinner is less about making money and more about welcoming riders to our community.  

Even so, the possibility exists for businesses and other organizations to profit from the event.

Indeed, the University of Northern Iowa recently released findings stating RAGBRAI has the potential to contribute more than $3 million in direct spending to towns and surrounding communities that host overnight visits.

To ensure that businesses and nonprofits benefit from RAGBRAI to the greatest extent possible, a good deal of initial investment is also associated with hosting the event. In addition to hosting entertainment, the executive committee must ensure an adequate law enforcement presence for the event.  

Moreover, medical and public safety facilities must be staffed, showers and toilets must be provided for up to 30,000 riders and support personnel, information and signage must be posted throughout town, and communication capabilities must be procured in case of an emergency.  

Although many members of the Jefferson community have donated provisions for the event, the costs of hosting are still considerable.  

To offset this financial burden, the executive committee has designed T-shirts to sell to riders and the general public, has budgeted for alcohol sales in the beer garden on the day of RAGBRAI and has received a generous donation from Grow Greene County.  

However, fully offsetting the costs of hosting RAGBRAI will be a team effort that involves the whole community.  

As such, the for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations are asked to help by paying vendor fees.

As suggested by RAGBRAI, any vendor who sells food or merchandise to the public as part of their normal, daily operations are exempt from the fees.  

If a for-profit business would like to put out a tent, have an outdoor beer garden or hire a DJ, for example, on the date of RAGBRAI, and these are not part of their typical daily operations, the executive committee is charging a $750 vendor fee.  

Nonprofit organizations that are not normally engaged in selling food or merchandise to the public on a daily basis are asked to contribute a $250 vendor fee.  

Any business or organization paying these fees receives free advertising from Jefferson RAGBRAI by being included on our maps and information tabloids. To lessen the financial strain on nonprofits, Jefferson is charging the lowest nonprofit vendor fee of any overnight town. Indeed, $250 is what we charged in 2008, the last time Jefferson was an overnight stop. Other towns are charging $300 and $350 to their churches and clubs.

To those that might initially balk at the idea of churches and charities paying a $250 fee, let’s examine the overwhelming financial benefit to those organizations.

If a nonprofit plans to serve 1,000 riders on the evening of July 23, and they charge $8 for beef and noodles, they will make $8,000 in initial profits. Therefore, the $250 fee is a mere 3.1 percent of their proceeds. This number is far less than the Iowa state sales tax.  

Moreover, if the same organization wanted to serve food at the Iowa State Fair, they would pay a fee in excess of 20 percent of their profits.

Our $250 fee pales in comparison.

Although all vendor fees will be spent on logistics, law enforcement, entertainment, publicity and other necessities, there is the possibility that Jefferson RAGBRAI will make a profit.  

If that is the case, some might wonder where the money goes.  We want to be clear that any profits generated will not go to the Jefferson RAGBRAI organization, the city government or the Greene County government. Any proceeds will be distributed back to the community through charitable donations to community organizations and projects. Thus, in effect, all vendor fees will go directly back to the Jefferson area community.  

Our ultimate goal in hosting RAGBRAI is to make sure the entire community benefits.

If you would like to register as a for-profit or nonprofit vendor, information can be found at under the Vendors tab.  

The Jefferson RAGBRAI executive committee is grateful to the community for supporting our efforts to make this event a success.

We look forward to showcasing our town and we will see you on the “Highway to Bells” on July 23.

Contact Us

Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161