By RENEE WEBB
As thousands of bicyclists roll through communities in Iowa for RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), they typically are met with a variety of food choices.
This year will be no different and, as in the past, several parishes in the Diocese of Sioux City will be offering food for the body and some will be providing nourishment for the soul along the route.
Entering its 45th year, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycling touring event in the world. The tour is limited to 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500 day riders. The cyclists will travel through communities in the diocese on the first three days of the seven-day ride.
With this year’s route kicking off in Orange City, St. Mary Parish in Alton is on the course just three miles down the road. The parish will hold a special Mass at 5 p.m. on July 22 to accommodate the RAGBRAI participants.
The new pastor, Father Dan Greving, noted he has also been asked to host an 83-year-old Knight who will be riding in RAGBRAI.
On July 23, the first day of the tour, bikers will ride through Granville. Nikki Heying, president of the St. Joseph Guild, said guild members will be serving up pie and ice cream from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Knights of Columbus from the Pilgrim Cluster – parishes in Alton, Granville and Hospers – also plan to run a stand.
Kelsey Roos, a parishioner at St. Anthony Parish in Primghar and co-chair of the RAGBRAI committee for the town, pointed out they will be having a combined pie stand with the other local churches.
“We will have seven different flavors and we are asking people in the parish to help make them,” she said. “Our goal is to have 3,000 pies total at the booth.”
The pie stand, which will be manned by members of all the churches, will be located on the east side of the courthouse in Primghar.
Mass at St. Anthony, noted Roos, is celebrated at 9 a.m.
In Hartley, Nicole Shaffer said St. Joseph Parish is teaming up with the other three churches in the community to offer a roast beef sandwich with pasta salad, pie and a bottle of water. The food will be served in a tent to be setup downtown. Money raised with be divided by the churches.
That evening, the overnight stop is in Spencer.
Sheriffa Jones, director of stewardship and development at Sacred Heart Parish and School in Spencer, said the parish will hold a spaghetti dinner from 3 to 7 p.m.
“We are preparing food for 2,000 people,” said Jones, who noted they will also be selling water and 1919 Root Beer. “Half of the proceeds will go to the Early Childhood Center that we are in the process of constructing and the other half of the proceeds will go to our parish mission that we will be having later on this year.”
At the dinner, youth of Sacred Heart Parish will sell 250 breakfast bags that will include a water bottle, apple, banana, granola bar and Frisbee for $5. Proceeds will go toward a trip to the National Catholic Youth Conference.
“Sacred Heart will have a little over 1,000 people camping on the east side of our campus,” Jones noted, who added that the church itself will be used as a place for people waiting for the dinner to cool off.
The bikers will depart Spencer that morning.
One of the stops toward the end of the day is in West Bend, home the Grotto of the Redemption Shrine.
Andy Milam, marketing and public relations coordinator, said the grotto is listed as the main attraction of the day.
“RAGBRAI lists highlights of the trip and we are noted as the highlight of the day for the Spencer to Algona leg,” he said. “We are expecting thousands of people.”
With that in mind, the grotto will ramp up its guided tours from hourly to every half-hour. Tours will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the gift shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“This is good exposure for the grotto,” said Milam, who noted they typically have about 100 visitors a day. RAGBRAI will draw people who wouldn’t usually stop by the grotto. “It’s a chance to evangelize and catechize about the meaning of redemption. It’s something that should touch a lot of people.”
Leaving West Bend, the route heads to Whittemore where St. Michael Parish is serving pie. Proceeds will go to the parish’s Rosary Society.
The final stop for the day is in Algona where it is an overnight stay.
Deacon Bill Black, pastoral minister at St. Cecelia, said the parish will open its food stand at the fairgrounds “to serve our signature chicken and biscuits along with pie.”
Money raised by the food stand will be used to support youth trips to the Steubenville conference and Catholic work camp. It will also help pay their fees to maintain the stand at the fairgrounds.
The local Knights of Columbus are also holding a dinner.
The deacon pointed out that the Huff-n-Puffers, a group of mainly-retired teachers out of Harlan, Iowa, will camp on parish grounds.
Deacon Black explained the Tuesday Mass at St. Cecelia is usually at 5:30 p.m., but they switched it to 7 a.m. so bikers may attend before leaving town.
According to Deb Trenary, business manager and spiritual director at St. Joseph Parish in Wesley, many parishioners are helping out with booths offered by the town.
“We will be offering tours of the church and the Catholic Daughters will have a pie stand,” she said.
From Wesley, this year’s RAGBAI route heads out of the Diocese of Sioux City to Garner, Iowa.