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Sergeant Bluff businesses anticipate economic boom from RAGBRAI

In the window of Little Red Embroidery, a T-shirt advertises Sergeant Bluff's RAGBRAI slogan 'Get a little Bluff on your tires.'
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
In the window of Little Red Embroidery, a T-shirt advertises Sergeant Bluff's RAGBRAI slogan 'Get a little Bluff on your tires.'

The western Iowa city of Sergeant Bluff will be kicking off Iowa’s annual bicycle ride across the state on Sunday. Local businesses anticipate the 49th annual RAGBRAI will give them a timely economic boost.

More than 15,000 people are registered to ride this year, and city officials expect the event will bring more than double that into town this weekend. They hope local businesses will profit from being the first stop on the route.

Sergeant Bluff city manager, Aaron Lincoln, said he hopes it can help some of the businesses recover pandemic losses.

“Not only just highlighting our community, but allowing some of our local businesses really to get a shot in the arm, be able to sell some goods and really highlight their businesses,” Lincoln said. “That was what we're really excited about from a city standpoint.”

A sign reads "Sergeant Bluff Proud - 51054"
Courtesy of Sergeant Bluff RAGBRAI Facebook
Sergeant Bluff is showing its hometown pride as it prepares to host RAGBRAI this weekend.

Like most businesses, Jennifer Rassel’s store Little Red Embroidery felt the impact of COVID-19. The store didn’t see the same busy orders for sports apparel and work-wear it usually gets. That’s why Rassel said she is especially excited for this weekend's RAGBRAI.

IMG_1085.jpg
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
Little Red Embroidery is preparing for RAGBRAI to come into Sergeant Bluff this weekend. Owner Jennifer Rassel said the store has been rearranged to show off RAGBRAI merchandise.

“No matter when it occurs, it is going to be a huge boost to the towns that are involved. So we definitely appreciate it, especially now, after that,” she said.

She said it’s an opportunity to showcase all that her business can do. The store is stocked full with RAGBRAI-centered merchandise – with T-shirts and hats proudly displaying the town’s slogan for the event: ‘Get a little Bluff on your tires.’

“Just everybody getting an idea of what we really do and what we're capable of, and what scale we're capable of doing with this type of thing,” Rassel said.

Nearly a fourth of riders spend more than $50 each day along the route, according to a survey conducted by RAGBRAI in 2019.

This year, cyclists will begin in Sergeant Bluff Sunday and make their way to Lansing by Saturday, July 30, passing through 37 of Iowa’s towns along the way. Organizers of the event have said that people from 20 different countries and all 50 states are registered for RAGBRAI.

Eddie's Tavern sits just off of the main street in Sergeant Bluff. The owners of the restaurant are excited to welcome RAGBRAI riders into the town.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
Eddie's Tavern sits just off of one of the main streets in Sergeant Bluff. The owners of the restaurant are excited to welcome RAGBRAI riders into the town.

Jim and Lori Burns, the owners of Eddie’s Tavern, are working hard to get their restaurant, located right off one of the main roads, prepared for the influx of people.

“We’re in a great location to serve everybody, and take advantage of them being here,” Jim Burns said. “So, it should be a busy couple of days.”

Jim said he and his wife have only owned the tavern for a little under two years now – making RAGBRAI a unique opportunity for the burgeoning business. He said family and friends will be helping to serve all the new guests they expect.

“We're just excited to have everybody here and have a good time,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of work, but it'll be a lot of fun too.”

Kendall is Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA.