The State Fair comes early for riders on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
When the river-to-river ride makes its way through the capital July 23, riders will have access to many of Des Moines’ tourism highlights, including the state fairgrounds.
The overnight stop in Des Moines will bring riders in through West Des Moines, past Historic Valley Junction and to the official campground in Water Works Park. On July 24, bikers will leave Des Moines on a route that goes through downtown and East Village, past the Capitol, and finally, along the fairground’s Grand Concourse, before exiting the city and heading to Knoxville.
View 2013 ragbrai route through des moines in a larger map
This is RAGBRAI’s first visit to Des Moines in 16 years.“We’re just excited to be a part of the celebration of the great ride across Iowa,” said Gary Slater, Iowa State Fair director. “The potential of 30,000 riders going through, maybe they’ll remember to come back in a couple weeks.”Slater is encouraging fair vendors to open for business two weeks before the start of the Iowa State Fair Aug. 8. Food and drink stands, and even the Sky Glider, are a possibility.
“A lot of people who go on RAGBRAI are from out of state or out of the country, so they’ve probably never been on the state fairgrounds,” said Kandi Reindl, assistant to the Des Moines city manager. “This is a little way for them to experience the Iowa State Fair without it actually being the Iowa State Fair.”
The main roads on the route — Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Fleur Drive, Walnut Street — are in good shape, Reindl said. However, the public works crews will be driving the route between now and RAGBRAI and repairing any potholes.
City drivers can expect minimal street closures for RAGBRAI. Dean Avenue, where cyclists will exit the fairgrounds and ride through Pleasant Hill, will close, as will the Walnut Street and Court Avenue bridges, where the events village will be set up. All other roads will open and close at intervals to allow bicycles and auto traffic to keep moving. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway’s westbound lanes will remain open.
“What we try to do is minimize as many street closures as possible, so there’s no obstacles to get downtown,” Reindl said. “We want as many locals to participate.”
The city is preparing for bicyclists to arrive in Des Moines as early as 9 a.m. on July 23; the journey from Perry is only 50 miles. Beginning at 11 a.m., there will be food and entertainment along the Principal Riverwalk and Walnut Street and Court Avenue river bridges. Entertainment includes Everclear, Live, Filter and Sponge.
RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz said the ride past Valley Junction and the Capitol and through the fairgrounds is the kind of Des Moines experience he hoped riders would get. “They’re going to get to see some major icons of the state,” he said. “It’s a winner.”
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