RAGBRAI Vendors & Towns
Dear RAGBRAI Riders –
We usually do not respond to every misstatement on the message boards, since we are a bit busy getting ready for RAGBRAI that is just 10 days away. However, when these mistruths get so outrageous, we have to take the time to respond and make sure folks know the actual facts, not just the rumors or innuendo that is distorting the truth.
First off, let me address the most egregious statements from the posting of Mama Ralphael, that were further spread falsely on the message boards by Toko:
“RAGBRAI charges each town an exorbitant amount for the “privilege” of hosting an overnight stop, and has instructed these towns to pass the cost onto the vendors, who have no choice but pass it onto the riders. Because the fees for local buddies are less than half, they’ve essentially created monopolies for the local groups. They’ve cut out the competition without which, as you all know, quality and fair prices suffer.”
RAGBRAI DOES NOT, AND HAS NEVER CHARGED Iowa towns for the “privilege” of hosting. No fee for Overnight Towns and no fees for pass-through towns. Feel free to verify this with the 791 pass-through towns and the 126 overnight towns that RAGBRAI has visited over the past 38 years.
Secondly, RAGBRAI does not receive one penny from any food vending fees on the RAGBRAI Route. Not one penny! There are several things that vendors must do that we spell out on our web site:
RAGBRAI does not make any decisions about what the vendors may offer to sell to participants, nor does RAGBRAI receive any funds from vendor fees. The vendor must have an Iowa Sales Tax Permit if they are a for-profit business. If they are selling food, the vendor must obtain an Iowa Retail Food Establishment License, which requires an inspection.
These are requirements by the state of Iowa that every vendor must comply with. It has been this way for decades. This is nothing new. The state license is $33.50 and the vendors must be inspected before they sell prepared food.
The next thing that we point out on the web site is:
Vendors who wish to set up within the city limits of an overnight town or a town that RAGBRAI passes through need to contact the vendor chairperson of the organizing committee in each town where they wish to be a vendor. The organizing committees determine the vendor fees, which are used by the communities to cover the costs of services provided to RAGBRAI participants. These services include additional sanitation services, additional law enforcement for traffic control, additional medical personnel, etc.
Then we inform potential vendors:
Vendors choosing to set up outside of city limits must obtain permission from the person whose property they are on. The county must be contacted regarding any county permit or ordinance.
This is nothing new. This is the same exact policy that RAGBRAI has had in place since Jim Green was the director of RAGBRAI. There is NO NEW POLICY, there are NO NEW FEES. These are the facts.
Here is another quote from Mama Raphael:
“But the new fees ($750 to $1050 per day) added to what we already pay the property owners ($200-$400 per day) and the porta potties ($300 per day), plus the threat of fines and imprisonment all sadly outweigh our desire to continue feeding RAGBRAI.”
Again, there are no new fees. The local city officials and the local county officials can determine ordinances. Here is the actual policy that Cherokee County set up for the first day.
“There are no fee amounts for non-profit organizations or any resident. Fee for Cherokee County commercial resident are $35 and non-county resident will be $100.”
So let us set the story straight: churches, Rotary, Kiwanis, cheerleaders, softball teams can set up for free. The farmer that wants to set up sweet corn stands or the couple that wants to flip burgers in their own yard have no fee. The local Sub Shop of Cherokee County would pay $35 to set up. The vendor that drives in from North Carolina or Missouri would have to skim $100 off their profits to pay the fee. Not quite the $7,350 in fees for the week that these vendors want you to believe, is it?
RAGBRAI has always backed Iowa communities that support RAGBRAI. We want to see the profits (if there are any after expenses) stay within the community and help fund their churches, youth groups, Cub Scouts, Fire Department, Swedish Dancing Club, Senior Center, Veteran’s groups and the Historical Society over out-of-state business that puts their profits in their personal pockets.
I have seen signs throughout this great state that boldly state RAGBRAI profits helped build this bike trail or built these bathrooms in this park. I have seen playgrounds for kids built with RAGBRAI profits. This is the beautiful thing about RAGBRAI and the generosity of the riders.
This year, two towns stand out in my mind for what they hope to accomplish with any RAGBRAI profits. The town of Plover hopes to fix the leaking roof on their community’s church. The town is working together on this project. The town of Garner decided to use the proceeds to purchase care packages that they will send to our troops overseas.
Those out of state vendors made the decision not to attend RAGBRAI. I have had conversations with numerous vendors such as Tender Tom’s Turkey, Mr. Pork Chop and Farm Boys Burritos to name a few during the ride and in the off-season. They have each said to me that they would certainly pay the requested fees if they choose to set up in a community that has ordinances in place. Chris Cakes (founded in Pocahontas) and the Belgium Waffle Man work hand-in-hand with the local communities as they set up in the fire station or community halls. Again, these vendors agree to the rules that have been set up for decades on RAGBRAI.
Without great Iowa communities, RAGBRAI does not exist. The towns and the townspeople propelled RAGBRAI into the event that it is today. We ask a lot of our communities to graciously host over 10,000 visitors and show them that great Iowa hospitality.
This is not about greed as many have suggested in emails and on the message boards. RAGBRAI wants as much money as possible to stay first within the state of Iowa, then within the county and finally within the community. Towns have real expenses such as traffic control, waste disposal and portable toilets, to name a few things. Counties have real expenses such as preparing and fixing the roadways for cyclists and having the county sheriff’s helping control traffic. To help cover these costs, RAGBRAI would like to see the dollars to stay local.
For people to call counties “extortionists” is ludicrous. When you are pedaling on the brand new asphalt road that Floyd County has just paved as we travel south out of Charles City or the 10+ miles of road between Bankston and Graf that Dubuque County is putting the final touches on as I write this, I’m sure you will be thanking them and not thinking badly of them.
RAGBRAI would not exist if vendors from outside of the communities, outside of the county that we are in, and outside of Iowa making a profit off RAGBRAI and then leaving our state with those profits. When that happens, fewer and fewer towns will step up to serve as RAGBRAI hosts.
One email I received stated about vending fees, “I can only speculate that the town feared loss of coffee sales in town.” The ironic thing here in that the city they mentioned was the home to Mrs. Olsen of Folger’s Coffee fame and was greeting all RAGBRAI rider’s with a FREE cup of coffee as they entered the little downtown.
I hope this cleared up any mistruths that are out there.
We are looking forward to a great RAGBRAI.