Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

July 23, 2013

Final preparations underway

Steve Woodhouse
The Journal Express

Knoxville — No matter where you go around Knoxville, you're likely to see someone preparing for tomorrow's RAGBRAI® event. 

In less than 24 hours, Knoxville will welcome the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. While numerous volunteers have been preparing for the event for months, time is running short and last-minute preparations are being done. 

For instance, at Celebrate Community Church this morning, several volunteers gathered to prepare food for the meal the church intends to serve Wednesday night. Jean McKay with the church said they are expecting to serve 50 trays of lasagna. In all, the church is preparing servings for 500 people...because that amount of food will occupy all of the storage space that is available. 

She is proud of the church and the space it has available to accommodate many visitors. The sanctuary at Celebrate has also been cleared to make more room for guests. Celebrate was built as a gift to the community, according to McKay, and the church is excited to share it with many people. 

"The hard part is just not knowing how many people people we're serving," McKay said. 

That is an unknown to Pizza Hut Manager Tim Stittsworth as well. Stittsworth was setting up one of the four satellite locations Pizza Hut will have tomorrow. 

"I'm not sure what will happen," Stittsworth said. The eatery has been planning for the event for quite some time. 

There will be other things served in Knoxville besides food. A.J. Mottet was busy this morning preparing a giant "slip and side" on the hill near Slideways. Mottet said the "slip and slide" in another town was very popular, and he is expecting 8,000 bicyclists near the beer tent he was also setting up. 

Preparations were also underway at Marion County Park, which is expected to host thousands of RAGBRAI participants. Conservation Officer Dave McKinney wanted to inform drivers they should avoid Willetts Drive on Wednesday. Traffic will be limited to RAGBRAI participants with the appropriate tags. An officer will be stationed outside the campground after 10 p.m. to keep the area clear for RAGBRAI. 

McKinney and others were also busy setting up a first aid tent at the park's entrance. Bussey Fire/Rescue is also providing an air conditioned trailer to act as a "cool zone" for those who may need it tomorrow. One more such trailer is expected to arrive for tomorrow. 

Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt reminds drivers, and bicyclists alike, to be courteous to each other. Watch out for each other and respect the road. 

Deputies and Iowa State Troopers will be positioned between Monroe and Knoxville along Highway 14 tomorrow morning. Boats will also be positioned in Lake Red Rock, around the bridge, in case someone goes off. The law enforcement personnel and resources will move into Knoxville during the day as the bicyclists move in. 

Sandholdt said he has a great deal of assistance organized over Wednesday and Thursday to ensure that the Marion County legs of RAGBRAI are safe. 

"We're ready," Sandholdt said.