Thousands of bicyclists are converging on the western Iowa town of Onawa for Sunday’s start of RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride across Iowa. This is the Monona County town’s fifth time for hosting the start of the event and Lyse Yankee is co-chair of the local RAGBRAI committee.Yankee says they’ve been working on the project since March in 20 committees, ranging from entertainment to sanitation, planning to host a group of 20-thousand visitors, essentially a town eight times the size of Onawa. She says special areas are already being staffed now to get bike riders checked in for the start of the 490-mile ride.Yankee says the community will be welcoming riders throughout the weekend in grand style. They will have entertainment in the Grandstand all day, then have a Mardi-Gras style Mardi-Brai parade through the street. It’s tradition for riders to dip their tires in the Missouri River before starting the long trek, but Yankee says there’s too much road construction for bikers to go to the river — so the river is being brought to them. A fire truck will pump river water onto the street so riders can symbolically ride through the river. She says being the first city to host the ride is a large financial boost for Onawa.Each rider spends about 35-dollars per person, per day. The ride will conclude a week from tomorrow in Clinton with overnight stops in: Lake View, Fort Dodge, Iowa Falls, Marshalltown, Hiawatha and Maquoketa. It will pass through 15 counties and 52 towns.
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