116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DeWitt resident Tom Tiefenthaler got his first glimpse of his future hometown on RAGBRAI in 1994, the last time the route passed through the city.
"I was never in DeWitt before in my life," Tiefenthaler recalled. Years later, he moved to the Eastern Iowa town because it was close to his business, and realized his first trip to where he'd eventually raise three children actually was by bike.
"I remember coming into town and I remember all the memories were great — the south side and TC's (Pizza) had something going on. Later on I put it all together, but that day it was just great memories of DeWitt."
This year, Tiefenthaler, a longtime biker, has been busy planning for months with dozens of other volunteers to set up entertainment, beverage gardens and logistics for DeWitt’s first overnight stop on what is frequently called the biggest mobile party in Iowa.
On Friday night DeWitt will swell with people and bikes traversing the state for the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa — after the riders’ Thursday stop in Anamosa — and the planning committee has main stage entertainment planned, local food vendors scattered across town and a beverage garden with cocktails, beer and non-alcoholic drinks.
The seven-day, 426-mile route will finish in Clinton on Saturday.
DeWitt leaders were approached late 2020 by RAGBRAI organizers to host the last overnight stop, meaning the town would need to set up camping and prepare food and entertainment for thousands of hungry, thirsty bikers with dollars to boost local businesses.
Maquoketa, just 19 miles north, decided to bow out of the rescheduled 2021 tour because the dates conflicted with a major road project scheduled for this year and the county fair, Interim City Administrator Mallory Smith said.
DeWitt leaders held public meetings and discussions with the city council, City Administrator Steve Lindner said, to see how much interest businesses, not-for-profits and the chamber held in helping come up with everything needed to host the riders. Feedback was positive, he said, and the city agreed to do it, forming a not-for-profit called RAGBRAI Incorporated.
Lindner said city leaders thought this was a chance for local businesses to snap back after a pandemic year of limited retail shopping and in-person dining. With 15,000 to 20,000 additional people coming through your town, he said, businesses are bound to see benefits.
“We think it’s going to be a big deal,” Lindner said.
The statewide RAGBRAI organization paid DeWitt $15,000 for expenses such as added law enforcement and offered $15,000 to be set aside for not-for-profit grants to be a host city.
Once DeWitt got the green light, volunteers on an executive planning committee started meeting weekly to plan how the town of 5,200 people would entertain and accommodate quadrupling in size overnight.
But hosting an overnight stop requires hundreds of volunteers, an estimated 800, the DeWitt Observer reported.
Organizers say the biggest need for volunteers is on the late-night beverage garden shifts. As of Monday, the group still was looking for volunteers 21 and older to work in the evening until after midnight for clean-up.