KALONA — Locals lined B Avenue as the sun cast a glow over rolling green farm fields Friday morning, extending a warm welcome to the RAGBRAI riders trickling in to their town of about 2,500.
As a meeting town, Kalona isn’t the large overnight stop riders are gearing up for — Iowa City has that task to handle later in the day as an overnight stop.
Nonetheless, Kalona organized dozens of vendors and merchants to usher the riders into town before they pedal off to Iowa City.
Paula Miller, 71, owner of Tuscan Moon Grill on Fifth Street, said she hoped to show riders just how “neighborly” the town is.
Her business aimed to accomplish that with a tent set up directly outside its physical location, with workers tending to the meat cooking over the flames of a large grill.
“We love to show off what we have here,” she said. “ … It’s a beautiful town, and I’m hoping people get to see that amidst all the riders and bikes.”
Miller said she hopes people come back after the taste of Kalona they’re offered during the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
“This is perfect for us,” she said. “We feel honored actually that they chose us as a meeting town. We hope people come back.”
For Tom Webb, 37, a Chaska, Minn., resident originally from Jefferson, RAGBRAI is just that — a return home.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” he said.
Webb is a rider on Team Cornbred, wearing black-and-gold Hawkeye gear and donning a tutu in those same colors.
His outfit was a nod to Iowa City, the town that houses the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. That next leg of the journey and seeing how Iowa City hosts is what Webb said he’s looking forward to in the remaining days of RAGBRAI, which end Saturday in Davenport.
“I love the people, I love cycling,” he said, adding the towns on the route this year have been “phenomenal.”
Others, such as Chad Ferris, 46, who runs What’s the Dill-yo, an outfit that sells water, bananas and pickles to the riders, plan to avoid the rowdiness of Iowa City and instead head to West Liberty.
RAGBRAI is the only event Ferris said he does because it’s an opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
“I love my state,” said Ferris, a Missouri Valley native who has set up a tent at RAGBRAI for the last six years. “ … I’ve gotten to see a lot of my state that I just never get to see.”
Check back with TheGazette.com for updates as RAGBRAI riders come into Iowa City.