WINTERSET, Iowa -- Winterset is well known as the land of covered bridges and the birthplace of John Wayne, but on Monday night RAGBRAI riders have turned Winterset into possibly the 16th largest city in the state of Iowa, sandwiched between Bettendorf and Mason City.
“The town only fits 5,200 and now we have to fit it out to 30,000, and we did it. We have the space and the room and the community came out and stepped up and helped us do it, too. We are honored to be a host site. The last time it was here was exactly 28 years to the date, so it’s been a long time and we are so excited to have these people from everywhere get a chance to come in see all the wonderful things Winterset has to offer,” said Ellen Wade, the Winterset RAGBRAI publicity chair.
Riders began the morning in Atlantic and made the 68-mile bike ride to Winterset by the afternoon and early evening. Once they arrived, it turned into a fair-like atmosphere right near the Madison County Courthouse.
Over 300 volunteers have made sure Winterset has its best foot forward. Live music has given visitors plenty to look forward to and riders say their first impression was nothing short of spectacular.
“Great cheerleaders welcoming us here. Towns like this do a great job making you feel like a rockstar when you come in so they did a great job. Just the organization, the signage, they did a great job,” said Angela Stanford from southern Iowa.
Organizers say this one night took six months of planning, but it is well worth the effort. The last piece of planning Monday night was the main headlining musical act, the Elton John and Billy Joel tribute band.
Riders hit the road to Indianola Tuesday morning.