‘ The Best Town on the Route’
FAIRFIELD — Fairfield threw a party Friday and more than tripled its population for 24 hours.
“Overall, we had very few problems,” said Capt. Dave Thomas of the Fairfield Police Department. “I was very impressed with the RAGBRAI crowd.”
Chief Julie Harvey could not comment because she is out of the office for a few days.
“We used the bulk of our police officers from 3 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday,” said Thomas. “We helped with traffic control Friday morning. A few of us worked 21 hours straight, took off a few hours and returned and worked another four hours. We’re pretty worn out.”
Terry Baker, co-secretary of Fairfield’s RAGBRAI Executive Committee and assistant director of Fairfield Iowa Convention and Visitors Bureau, said committee members and volunteers have been receiving “phenomenal feedback from riders, organizers and local people.”
“Riders reported Fairfield was the best town on the route. RAGBRAI officials said Fairfield did exactly what they asked; overall, it’s been very positive,” said Baker.
The tagline “Hold on to Your Handlebars!” to the Cirque de Fairfield theme inspired a Guinness Book of World Record competition to have the most people wearing fake mustaches in one place. Crowds gathered on Jefferson County Courthouse lawn Friday evening to don fake mustaches and be photographed and videographed according to Guinness’s rules for five minutes.
“We had independent witnesses and know we had well over 2,000 people together wearing fake mustaches, so we broke the previous record,” said Baker. “We have to wait to hear from Guinness if they accept our attempt. It might be a few months before we receive official word.”
Fairfield Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store kitchen and catering manager Dennis Lopp served on the local executive committee.
“I think it was a wonderful event,” said Lopp. “A lot of factors came together. Because of our wonderful weather, the riders were in great spirits when they got here, and we provided lots of good food and good entertainment.
“I feel we really gave riders a sense of what Fairfield is all about. A lot of people commented how organized Fairfield was, and they were surprised what the town had to offer. The riders appreciated even the simple things, such as how the routes were laid out.”
Michael Halley, RAGBRAI executive committee member and Fairfield city council member, also heard from numerous sources Fairfield was the best stop this year.
“It was a huge success,” he said. “RAGBRAI organizers said Fairfield excelled in all areas, from technical/logistical support to creating a fun, welcoming atmosphere.”
Halley spent the day working, manning an information booth downtown, emceeing the world-record-attempt for most fake mustaches worn in one place, manning the beverage garden beginning at 9:30 p.m. Friday and finally, working with city crews and other volunteers to clean up downtown until about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
“We had to get everything off the streets for traffic to resume as normal,” he said. “City workers and volunteers worked until the early morning hours, then more city crews went to work at 6 a.m. Saturday to continue cleanup.
“So many city employees contributed time and effort toward RAGBRAI, I credit a lot of the success to these behind–the-scenes workers. The Wastewater Department was in charge of sanitation throughout Friday, emptying trash cans as they filled, which happened more quickly as people ate more food and drank more beverages as the evening went on,” said Halley.
“Fairfield city street crews, the park crews, law enforcement; it’s amazing to see how much work there was to do.”
Chris Estle, director of Jefferson County Public Health, and her staff had one of the first-aid stations outside the entrance to their office Friday.
“We had the first-aid station in conjunction with Jefferson County Health Center,” she said. “We saw the typical things from bike riding such as road rash, blisters and sunburn. We were lucky the weather was so cool. We did hand out sunscreen and water and wrapped some knees and ankles.
“Mostly, we gave directions and answered questions,” said Estle. “It was a lot of fun meeting new people.
“Our law enforcement set up an operations post behind the fire station and used our offices, too. I wish the general public knew how much effort law enforcement put into working on RAGBRAI and working together. If the public saw what we saw Friday, it was magnificent coordination among law enforcement officials.
“I think everyone from committees to volunteers did a very good job.”
“Everyone who served on committees should pat themselves on the back,” said Baker. “We’ll meet later this week to sort out what we did right, what we could have done better. But it was a very great effort and went smoothly.”
Baker said the executive committee also will be working to total up revenue, expenses and profit and will share that information with the community.
Any profits made from the sale of T-shirts, the beverage garden and anything else, will be totaled and after expenses paid, those profits will be shared with non-profit organizations that helped and supported RAGBRAI.
“We really rolled out the welcome mat,” said Lopp. “Our volunteers did a huge job. Our city employees went above and beyond so we could do what we did. A huge thanks to all our volunteers, city employees and sponsors.
“And a huge thank you to our community,” said Lopp. “From the executive committee, I want to say we couldn’t have done it without the community.”
Halley said while he was working at an information booth downtown earlier in the day, it was fun to see bicycle riders arriving already wearing mustaches.
“It was surprising to see so many mustaches rolling in,” he said. “The idea of breaking a world record really caught on and was an added event for RAGBRAI riders and the community to participate in.
“All the musical acts were great. The crowd loved the Spazmatics and the band loved the crowd,” said Halley. “The band had to add some more numbers to play longer than they’d anticipated.
“Thanks to everyone who helped, RAGBRAI really was a community event,” he said. “Thanks to community members for their patience and being inconvenienced. RAGBRAI is a great economic impact for us.
“I enjoyed RAGBRAI from a host’s point of view,” said Halley. “All the committee members had to help staff the beverage garden on the late shift; we knew it would be difficult to fully staff with volunteers. We sold more beer than expected, so hopefully we made more profits.”
A total of four local people were arrested for public intoxication in the early hours Saturday, said Thomas. No RAGBRAI participants were involved.
“We had a few noise complaints, and from Friday morning to 9 a.m. Saturday, we had 14 ambulance calls,” said Thomas. “A few of those were local residents, but most were bike riders and none were serious.”
Baker said she hopes Fairfield will host RAGBRAI again, within five to six years, so the collective memory of what works won’t be lost.