Hosting RAGBRAI Comes With a Host of Economic Advantages

From Madison to Mumbai and Dallas to Dublin, people love RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

Each year, cyclists from around the globe arrive in Iowa for a seven-day journey across the state and a celebration of biking, music, food, and warm hospitality. The economic impact for Iowa is huge, with direct spending reaching several million dollars each day.

Every year the stops along the route change. In 2004, Hiawatha was one of the host cities. For the 43rd annual event, the committee once again chose Hiawatha as an overnight destination.

“They had a great event in 2004 and we recognized then that Hiawatha was an up-and-coming town,” said RAGBRAI Director TJ Juskiewicz. “The leaders kept saying ‘We would love to have it back.’”

Juskiewicz says it was a good time to bring the event to Hiawatha. After having great conversations with Mayor Tom Theis, City Administrator Kim Downs, Police Chief Dennis Marks, Parks Recreation Director Kelly Friedl and others, the committee knew Hiawatha was an ideal spot.

“They are wonderful people who love their community,” he adds. “The town leadership is active and enthusiastic.”

In addition to the city staff, Juskiewicz says he’s seen Hiawatha volunteers and churches step up and get involved.

“It’s a great opportunity for fund-raising,” he says. “Churches have missions of helping people. We welcome church involvement.”

Juskiewicz says local Hiawatha businesses have also been active participants in RAGBRAI planning. Though there are no hotels in town — and Cedar Rapids will benefit from RAGBRAI motel and lodging revenue — dozens of Hiawatha businesses still stand to make a profit.

So who will see a spike in sales and service as the cyclists arrive in town? Restaurants, fast food retailers, bars and pubs, health care providers, gas stations and convenience stores, transportation and auto companies, grocery stores, banks and credit unions, chiropractors, staffing agencies, car washes, and coffee shops, among others.

With millions of dollars in potential spending, Hiawatha business owners are busy preparing for the 10,000 riders who will arrive on Thursday, July 23.

“We applaud the local Hiawatha committee,” says Juskiewicz. “They went above and beyond and we’re looking forward to our stay in Hiawatha.”