116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ANAMOSA — Bike riders and visitors stopping in Anamosa on this year’s RAGBRAI will be greeted by a larger-than-life piece of the town’s history.
"God Bless America,“ a 25-foot, 32,000- pound sculpture by artist Seward Johnson depicting figures from Grant Wood’s ”American Gothic“ painting will be in town for the event.
The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa was canceled last year because of the pandemic, but this year’s ride is back on — starting July 25 in northwest Iowa’s Le Mars. On July 29, the estimated 20,000 riders will come as close to the Corridor as this year’s route takes them as they make their way from the overnight cities of Waterloo to Anamosa. The trek is 84.7 miles, the longest day of the weeklong ride.
LeeAnna Boone, director of the Anamosa Chamber of Commerce, said the focus for the event this year is to keep the events and entertainment local. “We’re trying to do everything in town to benefit our residents and our businesses,” she said.
Boone said the extra year of planning allowed for the RAGBRAI committee to bring the big “God Bless America” sculpture back to town. RAGBRAI gives host towns $15,000 toward a nonprofit organization, which Anamosa used to acquire the artwork for the event.
“We felt that it was very important to Anamosa that we had it here,” Boone said. “We had it here in 2018 and it was huge boost for tourism in town. Our businesses greatly benefited from having the sculpture in town.”
Boone hopes the statue can reside permanently in Anamosa, the birthplace of Grant Wood and home to the Grant Wood Art Gallery. The sculpture has been hosted at locations around the country, recently in Saginaw, Mich., and Peoria, Ill., according to the Seward Johnson Atelier.
It is valued at $880,000. Boone said profits from RAGBRAI will go toward acquiring the sculpture permanently.
Anamosa last hosted RAGBRAI in 2012, and this year will mark the fourth time the ride has stopped in the town.
The 2021 bike ride kept all of the planned stops from the canceled 2020 ride. Cyclists had the option of transferring their registration to 2021 or request a refund.
Boone said Anamosa was able to keep most of the plans it made for hosting the event before its cancellation in 2020.
“The last month is probably the most hectic time turning all the last-minute details — your final street closures, getting your volunteers lined up, making sure you have all your signs made. It’s a lot of little things that all have to come together,” she said.
After a year of difficult times brought on by the pandemic, local business are grateful for the influx of road-weary riders headed to town.
Duane Mosser, manager of Giggle Juice Liquor Station, is gearing up for the event by ordering extra inventory — he expects to sell huge quantities of ice and cold beer. But he said it can be difficult to obtain enough stock and enough employees to cover the day.
“Hopefully we can juggle those two things, and make as many people as happy as we possibly can,” he said.
Mosser said just about every business in Anamosa is expecting huge sales.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed not to notice a bump in your business,” he said.
Mary Oldham, owner of Grounds and Goodies coffee shop in Anamosa, said this is her first RAGBRAI as a business owner, and she’s not sure exactly what to expect.
“We have pumpkin fest the first weekend of October, and I keep telling my employees expect that times maybe 200,” she said. “That’s what we’re expecting because we’re the only coffee shop in town, we’re right on main street in the middle of everything, and if it’s hot out they’re going to come inside because it’s air-conditioned.”
Oldham, a member of the vendor committee, said business from riders is hugely important for the town of about 5,500.
“This town needs it. Every business in this town needs it after the last year and a half,” she said. “So we’re looking forward to that and making everyone that comes into town comfortable and welcome, and that they have a positive image of Anamosa.”
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