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News :: RAGBRAI brings thousands from all over to Vinton for the first time
· 11:43pm July 26th, 2012
RAGBRAI participants Gardar Sigurdsson and Thor Halfdanarson -- whose riding uniforms read "Island" (Iceland, in American English spelling) -- stood outside the Fifth Street Koffee Haus, talking about RAGBRAI and the small towns they have seen this week.
"I wish I had done this sooner," Said Sigurdsson.
Both men immigrated to Iowa from Iceland, and work at the University of Iowa Hospital. They were among the thousands who rode through Vinton on Thursday, en route from Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids.
Sigurdsson said he loved the small towns he saw on Thursday, his very first day to ride with RAGBRAI.
One of the things he said he liked most about Vinton: The shady spot on the courthouse lawn where he was able to catch a short nap.
Riders seeing Vinton for the first time, and local residents alike, found good things to say about Thursday's event.
"It's awesome," said one resident of the large bicycle sign built by John and Keith Elwick. "I saw lots of people getting their pictures taken by it."
Many bikers did stop to take their photo in front of the giant bike with wheels made of wood. Phil Borleske was one of many Vinton residents who spent some time near the bike, taking the photos of riders.
One of the last groups of riders to take their photo near that bike on Thursday afternoon was a couple from Louisiana.
"RAGBRAI was awesome. Thanks to all the people who worked so hard for Vinton to make this a very special event. I heard comments from riders on how nice of a set up we had," said a local resident.
"Congratulations to the planning committee," said another resident. "Walking downtown I had heard several people saying how nice the welcome was from the city of Vinton, and that it is such a neat town."
Several groups of Vinton-Shellsburg cheerleaders took turn standing near the Vinton Fire Department's aerial ladder truck, cheering "Keep that RAGBRAI spirit up" and welcoming riders to Vinton.
Football players, Post-Prom Committee members and students planning a trip to several states were among those selling concessions at booths along the route. Other churches and organizations also offered a variety of food and drinks. Several businesses also rented space along 4th Street to sell items ranging from grilled sweet corn to smoothies.
Vinton City Coordinator Andy Lent also heard many good things about Vinton from the riders.
"The community as a whole really came together to highlight our city and welcome the riders," said Lent. "We heard several compliments that Vinton was the best meeting town this year."
Some area residents have been asking about the possibility of hosting a RAGBRAI overnight stay. Lent said city leaders and RAGBRAI fans hope to see that happen, although it could pose some unique challenges for Vinton, and require many more area residents to get involved.
"While it would take a lot of planning, we would like RAGBRAI to consider Vinton as a spot for hosting an overnight stay. Since the fairgrounds would be the likely spot for the riders to camp out, it likely couldn’t happen at the same time as the county fair. We would also need many more volunteers to make that happen," he said.
VU Director Nathan Hesson agrees with Lent.
"I heard nothing but good things from the riders yesterday," said Hesson. "So many people were impressed by the way Vinton handled the influx of people. It was an incredible opportunity to showcase our community to people from all around the world and I think our community did an outstanding job of putting our best foot forward."
"As far as Vinton being an overnight stay, I would personally at least entertain the idea," adds Hesson. "It would take the entire community’s support to pull off something like that, so I’ll wait for the invite before we commit to something that big."
RAGBRAI Day arrives in Vinton!
Felicia Hertle named 2012 Benton County Fair Queen