The silence was almost deafening last Tuesday afternoon. Sure, there was the normal sound of traffic and daily goings-on, but our city by the lake was awfully quiet in a way.
No, I'm not losing it. I lost is a looonnngggg time ago - if you add in the county fair the week before, but that's another story.
I'm referring to the day after RAGBRAI XVII wheeled into Emmetsburg on Monday and called the Irish Capitol of Iowa its home for a night. While the exact count of riders is never really known for sure, a conservative estimate of 8.500 who are registered with the organizers, The Des?Moines Register, their are countless other riders who simply join the ride for a day or two or even just happen to be swallowed up by the ride as it passes by in a blur of color and the whirr of bike tires.
In any respect, Emmetsburg's population of roughly 4,000, give or take a pet or two in that number, was quadrupled at the very least on Monday. Between the bicyclists and their support crews and others, native Emmetsburg residents were outnumbered 4-1.
And you know something? We all survived it - and for the most part, had a blast in doing so.
Yes, there was a lot of work that had to be done before the first cyclist rolled into town around 9:30 a.m. Monday. The local RAGBRAI Committee began meeting earlier this year, right after the official announcement of the host communities was made in Des Moines.
Committee chairs began formulating their plans on what to do and how to do the unthinkable - Hosting 20,000 thousand people overnight in the middle of the summer. As a member of that committee, I got into the mix a little late, but drew on past experience from the RAGBRAI visits to Emmetsburg in 1993 and 2002 to get my assignment organized for last Monday - the radio communications system for the local committee. For the most part, it worked pretty well, but there are things I'd do differently. But, that's something I?think every committee has been thinking since the last cyclists and their entourage left on Tuesday, and I'm sure they're also thinking about what might have been done differently.
But the job that this community did in hosting the riders - finding the right word or words has had me puzzled for the past few days as I've thought about it. Talking with some riders on Monday, one common comment that was offered was how impressed our visitors were with the organization of the community.
The vendors' area - the bike shops, food court, entertainment venue - were all located in an easy-to-find location, with plenty of room. The entertainment was also complimented, with the variety of the performing groups; One Layne, Classical Blast and the Johnny Holm band all drawing high marks.
And then there was the friendlinesss of the residents. Bikers would ride up to local folks, ask for a direction or a recommendation, and they were given helpful information. I did a stint of directing traffic at First and Lawler for about an hour on Monday, and was tested on my recollection of where various locations were, giving directions to businesses and locations, and even helping a cyclist find a business that could help fix broken piece of equipment.
And the neat thing about that experience was the appreciation of the cyclists. "Thank You" was heard over and over again as groups rode past and on throughout the day and night and Tuesday morning.
So, maybe in retrospect, the best way to sum up RAGBRAI XVII?is "Emmetsburg did good!"