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Officials cite safety issues, construction projects as main reasons for not hosting event

The City of Maquoketa relinquished its RAGBRAI hosting duties in 2021.

A consensus of Maquoketa City Council last week decided to forego hosting the final night of RAGBRAI (Register’s Great Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). Council members cited numerous health and safety concerns as well as sizable construction projects that made them “uncomfortable” bringing so many people to town.

A replacement city had not been named as of Monday evening.

The decision was not an easy one, council members conceded, including Councilwoman Jessica Kean.

“It’s a painful decision to make,” Kean said. “Saying it and making it official hurts.”

However, making the decision to bow out so early may put Maquoketa in a positive position to host an overnight stay in coming years, Kean added.

An estimated 20,000 bicyclists plus their support staff, friends, and family were to descend on Maquoketa in July after RAGBRAI organizers tapped the city to host the final overnight stay July 30. The event would end days before the Jackson County Fair began. This year’s ride would have kicked off July 19 in Le Mars, with overnight stops in Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Iowa Falls, Waterloo, Anamosa, and Maquoketa before ending with the traditional dipping of the tires in the Mississippi River in Clinton.

Then, COVID-19 cases escalated in the United States and health and safety concerns grew.

As a result, RAGBRAI organizers in April postponed this year’s race to July 25-31, 2021. However, the route would remain the same.

But 2021 comes with hurdles that 2020 did not have, Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce Director Wendy McCartt reminded the city council Oct. 5.

First, the 2021 Jackson County Fair and RAGBRAI will be the same week next year.

The situation could be managed, however. The two events coincided in 2004, which is the last time RAGBRAI spent the night in Maquoketa.

However, fair attendance has grown significantly in the ensuing years, from 10,000 to 13,000 in the early 2000s to more than 50,000 paid attendance in 2019.

Hosting both events simultaneously would severely stretch local law enforcement’s resources and manpower, Maquoketa Police Chief Brad Koranda told the council. The department would have to hire more officers and rely on more volunteers.

The city depended on the fairgrounds to house RAGBRAI participants. That space will not be available with the fair taking place at the same time next year, and hotel lodging would also be at a premium if those events occurred simultaneously, Councilman Nathan Woodward noted.


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