RAGBRAI news team
Mon, Jul 23, 2012 | by Regina ZilbermintsShare
NEMAHA – The population of the smallest town on this year’s RAGBRAI route grew at least 100-fold today.
By tonight, it will return to about 85 people.
But the residents of Nemaha, “a mighty little town,” and surrounding communities didn’t seem daunted by the task of serving pie and Gatorade to thousands of cyclists.
“It’s so much fun talking to everyone,” said Megan Richardson, a Schaller-Crestland School District teacher from Storm Lake who was selling pie near the town’s entrance.
Next to her, fellow teacher Tracy Pickhinke, of Early, added, “It’s always fun to watch how people dress up.”
As for the pie the two were selling – cyclists better hurry if they want a slice.
“The best pie on the route so far,” said Bill Lyman, 70, Elmhurst, Ill, eating a slice of cherry pie.
The group is already out of rhubarb and strawberry rhubarb, and half-way through a “church basement full of pie,” the teachers said.
But they have plenty of flavors left.
The proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for the district. That fund survived for years from money collected on previous RAGBRAIs.
This is the first time Nemaha has hosted RAGBRAI since 1998 – a time referenced by a skeleton on a bike, hanging from a post with a sign reading, “Can anyone help me find a way to get out of this town? I’ve been here since 1998.”
That, in turn, reference the shirts that were popluar among cyclists. On the front: “A mighty big welcome to Nemaha, a mighty small town.” On the back: “Now get back on your bikes and get out of town. Have a nice day.”
Rick and Shirley Gilson were helping sell the shirts, just before riders left the town. Both remembered the last time RAGBRAI rode through Nemaha.
Both said they enjoyed the experience of having cyclists flood the streets, though “I wouldn’t do it every day,” said Rick Gilson.
The town has made some changes since the previous RAGBRAI. They allowed some non-local vendors to help out this year.
But the number of volunteers, both from Nemaha and from surrounding areas, who stepped forward to help hasn’t changed.
“I think we’re just as good [as the bigger towns],” Shirley Gilson said. “We’re getting lots of compliments, we can compete.”
Lyman, the cyclist, agreed. He ate lunch with his daughter in a shady park right off the route with a DJ playing in the background.
It’s amazing that such a small town hosts such a large event, Lyman agreed.
“But that’s what Iowa does,” he said.
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