Diocesan communities gear up for RAGRAI
By RENEE WEBB, Globe reporter
For more than 40 years the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – RAGBRAI – has wheeled its way across the state.
Drawing thousands of riders from throughout the nation and other countries, this seven-day tour is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.
Preparations are gearing up in various communities across the state for RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride across Iowa. Among the stops this year are several towns within the Diocese of Sioux City where parishes are located.
Through the years parishes have used the event as a way to raise money by offering a meal and this year is no exception. This year the opportunities abound as all overnight stops on the western side of the state are home to Catholic parishes.
The kickoff city for this year’s ride is Rock Valley. Despite historic flooding, city officials there are moving forward with the plans. Racers will camp in the city July 19 before starting the route July 20.
Sister Jodie Zimmerman, pastoral minister, said the parish will offer two Masses on July 19 at 4 and 6 p.m. to accommodate RAGBRAI participants. That evening St. Mary’s will also host a spaghetti supper for $8. They are making plans to serve 1,200.
“Our area around the church will be a family-friendly area as far as entertainment goes,” she said.
While this is the first time for Rock Valley to host RAGBRAI, Sister Jodie said a few years ago the ride started in Sioux Center and Larchwood, so the Knights of Columbus were able to offer some tips on providing the meal.
“I’m excited about it and looking forward to it,” Sister Jodie said. “The flood has drawn us to work together.”
Given that about every church in town is hosting a dinner, the teamwork will continue.
As the riders make their way to the overnight in the Lakes area, they will ride through Sheldon as well as other towns.
Susan Reiser, business manager at St. Joseph Church in Milford, said the parish is planning several fundraisers for RAGBRAI’s stop in the Lakes area. Like Rock Valley, this is the first-time ever for RAGBRAI to have an overnight stay in Okoboji.
“We are hosting 300 campers on our ballfield, green space on parish property and about 70 sleepers in our basement,” she said. “We are right on the route, so we feel we should be good hosts and neighbors.”
The youth group from St. Joseph plans to sell beverages in the church parking lot from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The parish will host a homemade spaghetti dinner from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 20 and then an omelet breakfast from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on July 21 with freshly-baked cinnamon rolls.
“For breakfast, we are only planning for about 400 – mainly if the people staying here eat,” said Reiser, who noted they are planning on about 1,000 for dinner.
Along with the opportunity for bikers to attend regularly scheduled Sunday Masses on July 20, Father Tom Flanagan will celebrate Mass that day at 3 p.m., followed by a bike blessing at 4 p.m.
As bikers make their way from the Lakes area to Emmetsburg, they will pass through several communities including Graettinger.
Jean Hyslop, principal at Emmetsburg Catholic School and DRE at Holy Family Parish in Emmetsburg, said the whole campus will be an area for camping.
“We are off the beaten path so it will be a quieter area for people to relax, camp and have a nice meal,” she said. “The day after it was announced, we had people calling us to see what was available. It will be crowded here, but not that busy.”
Holy Family will offer a chicken and noodles dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. on July 21. They are planning for about 1,200.
Father Clem Currans, pastor of Holy Family Parish, said the money from the meal will be useful for the school.
The local Knights of Columbus will also be selling nutty bars.
“The parish has pulled together a nice committee of parishioners who are willing to help,” said Hyslop, who noted this is the second time the town has hosted an overnight stop for the ride. “It’s been really nice to see all of the people working together to make it happen. If people can’t work, then they are providing bars and doing whatever they can.”
Father Currans, who has ridden in several previous RAGBRAIs, plans to ride from Milford to Emmetsburg on July 21. He is still determining if he plans to ride on July 22, but if not, he will celebrate 6 a.m. Mass at the church.
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