RAGBRAI pedals through diocese

Sister Donna Donovan, CHM, talks with bikers from California while volunteering at a spaghetti dinner at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa July 23. From left are Craig Rich; Rod Valdivia, chancellor of the San Diego Diocese; and Steven Lopez.

By Celine Klosterman

Catholics in Ottumwa, Mount Pleasant and Burlington helped feed and shelter hundreds of bicyclists July 23-25 as part of RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).

Those three towns in the Davenport Diocese served as host communities for the 37th annual journey, which covered 442 miles from Council Bluffs to Burlington beginning July 19.

In Ottumwa, 75-80 volunteers served 600 bikers a spaghetti dinner at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish July 23, said Dianne Haas. She and her husband, Ted, chair the parish’s Restoration Committee, which organizes a spaghetti dinner for local Catholics annually. Some parishioners also hosted bikers overnight, she said.

Volunteers had planned to offer dinner from 4-7:30 p.m., but served until running out of food at about 8:15 p.m., she said. “We had a great turnout; everything moved smoothly; the riders were all appreciative, and we met lots of nice people.”


It was the second time in nine years the parish had welcomed RAGBRAI riders, Haas said. 

In Mount Pleasant, St. Alphonsus parishioners served grilled chicken and fish dinners to more than 675 bikers and their support crew July 24, Marlene Donnolly, dinner chairperson, said. More than 80 cyclists stayed overnight in Manning Hall, while numerous parishioners offered their yards and homes for other bikers. 

Bikers were “a great group of helpful guests as they transformed the dinner hall to their inside camping spot,” Donnolly said. “Thanks to all parish members who helped plan and pull off this event!”

St. Alphonsus had previously welcomed RAGBRAI riders in 2003.

In Burlington, Notre Dame schools sold weeklong parking spaces and provided security for 750 cars belonging to RAGBRAI riders, said Nick Dirth, president of the schools’ athletic board and coordinator of Notre Dame’s RAGBRAI efforts. About 1,000 campers spent the night of July 17 on the schools’ baseball fields, and the schools sold bicyclists meals July 17-18 and 25.

Bikers also paid $5 for showers, soap, shampoo and donated towels. “We went through 1,200 towels (July 25); we had to wash and dry them as fast as we could,” Dirth said.

Notre Dame schools raised about $25,000 from bikers to buy a new bus, he said.

About 10,000 people registered for RAGBRAI XXXVII.

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