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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Where'd they all go?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Record RAGBRAI crowd here and gone, just like that

Monday morning the multitudes stood in awe and applauded long and loud this incomparable community and the outstanding, unrivaled job its volunteers did planning for and hosting RAGBRAI XL on its 2012 first overnight here Sunday.

As before, it was totally amazing as the thousands of bicycle riders and their support groups and vehicles rolled into Cherokee beginning early Sunday morning and streaming in throughout the entire day.

When they were all here by Sunday evening, a record RAGBRAI crowd of more than 30,000 hot, tuckered, hungry, thirsty bikers and supporters hunkered down in hundreds of yards and several hundred acres of Cherokee green space that managed to house more than six times the city's population.

Their thousands of tents and vehicles and bodies packed the expansive fairgrounds, the many city parks, the many school campuses, church lawns, the golf course, and a countless number of residents' yards, decks, patios, and basements.

And, once encamped, the people roamed the streets of Cherokee searching out food, drink, shade, and musical entertainment second to none.

The only snag in the entire rolling circus was the triple digit temperatures that pre-empted or curtailed many revelers, content to hold up in their shady camping areas.

According to reports, nearly all food venues ran out of food early and lines more than a block long were reported at many places as the hungry riders patiently waited to eat late into the night. A few well-stocked restaurants were wall-to-wall busy up to closing time.

What is normally billed as a traveling carnival of about 20,000, this year's anniversary ride numbered well over 30,000, according to veteran RAGBRAI participants, and one report said that was just the bicyclists.

Many said they were forced to dismount and walk their bikes through Cherokee, and also Marcus, one of the pass-through towns on this year's official first leg from Sioux Center to Cherokee.

The hundreds of Cherokee volunteers, and the dozens of them who did much of the heavy lifting (we all know who you are) were a sight to behold as they took care of business all day long and then stayed until the exhausting end to help the city begin its tedious, scorching tear-down and clean-up labors.

The fresh groups who hit the ground running beginning at 5 a.m. Monday for clean-up carried on the valiant mission as those before them promised and delivered on Sunday.

Many associated with RAGBRAI founder and sponsor, the Des Moines Register, said they were blown away with the pride and smiles lighting up the night as Cherokee volunteers fielded comments left and right about how Cherokee "allways" excels at hosting RAGBRAI and that the overnight here is "always" one of the participants' best remembered and appreciated.

The many city committees worked laboriously for six months to pull it all off and then, whammo! It's all gone just like that. Monday morning you couldn't even tell they were here.

And that's the lasting testimonial to the type of people who live in Cherokee, the type of people participating in RAGBRAI, and the type of people in this community "allways" unafraid when needed to step up and answer the call.

"This was just an amazing, unbelievable experience," said Cherokee City Administrator Don Eikmeier after his first ever RAGBRAI. Eikmeier was instrumental, along with the various committee heads and members, who pooled their expertise over a six-month period to present RAGBRAI with such a special overnight gift of preparedness and hospitality.

"I can't count the number of riders who complimented Cherokee and its people for the job they did. All accolades go to this community and the volunteers for opening up their hearts to RAGBRAI. We did the best performance we could and it was an outstanding effort.

"A credit also goes to the RAGBRAI participants," added Eikmeier. "They were well-behaved and really take care to clean up after themselves. Our clean-up crews hit the ground runing at 5 a.m. Monday and by 10 a.m. they were looking around for more things to do. Everything went very smoothly and it's all a credit to our volunteers in this community."

Eikmeier said there were no significant problems as far as law breakers or law enforcement procedures. "Chief (Steve) Schuck was pleased with how everything went and how his officers handled the barrage," explained Eikmeier. "They did a marvelous job and need to be commended by all of us."

Many medical issues, serious and benign, kept the Cherokee Regional Medical Center staff going full bore throughout the day and night Sunday. Read all about it in Thursday's Chronicle Times.

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