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RAGBRAI a Huge Success in Leon

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

by Keegan Bethards
Leon Journal-Reporter

July 26th, the day there were more bicycles in town than citizens. If you happened to take a look out your window last Tuesday, you may have noticed the few extra thousand people milling around, nearly bursting Leon at the seams.

Funny how Leon being an overnight stop for RAGBRAI was all anyone could talk about back in January, but now, no traces are left to be seen nearly a week later...except for the colorful bikes (a recent Leon addition, to build up RAGBRAI excitement) which helped welcome riders to town.

What kind of picture did RAGBRAI paint when it came to town?  Let’s see...

Thirty vendors packed  the Square--offering corndogs, shaved ice, fruit smoothies, tenderloins and more.  But food wasn’t the only specialty on the Square. Bike clothing, RAGBRAI apparel, and bike repair vendors were a few others that joined the festivities. Many vendors had to hang their “Sold Out” shingle before the night was over.  Hometown kids were perched on their front lawn, soaking it all in while some hoping to make a buck or two by selling ice cold lemonade. Bikers camped out in every nook and cranny Leon had to offer. RVs and trailers parked in every green space available (except for the golf course, of course).  Over 1,200 brown tents filled in near the fairgrounds, precise as a checkerboard. The former ALCO parking lot turned into a concert venue.  Three performing bands left the amps on stage smoking, providing night-long entertainment for out-of-towners and locals.  For the 2,000 bicyclists lodging at the CD Hotel, more luggage was thrown out by the High School ball fields than at an airport on a Tuesday afternoon.

Oh, and the extra 20,000 people? 20,000!? Yes, indeed...as Dr. Seuss once said,  “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.” It was a sight to see!

Yes, RAGBRAI’s overnight stop in Leon was one for the record books!

“There are so many individuals and organizations that came together to make RAGBRAI as successful as it was and it is inspirational to see that the community could come together to host over 20,000 riders in a town our size,” states Kolton Hewlett.

Hewlett was the man who got things spinning here in Leon for RAGBRAI’s overnight stop.

But this was not a one person show...

“I am especially grateful to Ethan Pitt, Shelley Bickel, Shannon Erb and Rich Erke for not running the other way when I asked them to be on the executive committee and for dedicating 6 months of their life to RAGBRAI planning!  Ethan did a tremendous job fielding requests from riders for housing and camping, making sure we had enough trash receptacles, showers, toilets, etc. for the day of and leading the clean-up crews the next day. Shelley and Rich made sure the town was prepared and safe the day of by providing leadership for law enforcement, medical, public safety, transportation, and communication.  Shannon did a great job with publicity and marketing of the event through the management of the website and Facebook page, soliciting sponsorships, decorating the town and selling t-shirts,” states Hewlett.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” Again, the man-Dr. Seuss. 

Leon pulled it together, welcomed 20,000 people into the community with heart,  hospitality and is still here to tell the tale. So cheers, Leon--here’s to the next one!

“I want to thank the community of Leon for all your support over the last 6 months in preparing for RAGBRAI.  The list of people to thank is endless that pulled together to prove that although we are a small town, we have a big heart and we were born to stand out,” ends Hewlett.

Photo by Michael Anthony Gruich Jr.