RAGBRAI will continue its 48th ride across Iowa in 2020, despite staff resignations
The marketing team behind the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, more commonly known as RAGBRAI, resigned Tuesday.
In tandem with their resignation, the former staff announced a new bike ride, Iowa’s Ride, which is set to cross Iowa on July 19-25, the same week that RAGBRAI 2020 is scheduled.
Officials at Gannett, the parent company of the Register, say RAGBRAI is not going anywhere.
“We’ll continue RAGBRAI’s longstanding tradition in 2020 with another great bicycle ride and strong partnerships with Iowa communities to raise money for good causes. Our commitment remains to donate $50,000 to the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital,” said Andy Yost, chief marketing officer of Gannett. “We’re proud of the good RAGBRAI has done for the state since 1973.”
Asked whether Gannett plans to take legal action against organizers of the proposed Iowa’s Ride, Yost said the company is exploring all legal options.
About 10,000 registered riders, with participants hailing from all 50 states and a host of international locations, descend on Iowa every year to be part of RAGBRAI, believed to be the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.
Karras, 89, said that he was not consulted on the leadership team’s decision to resign and start a competing ride. Reached Tuesday, he said he was “dismayed” and “stunned.”
“That’s insane,” he said.
TJ Juskiewicz, who had served as RAGBRAI director for 16 years, wrote in a statement posted to RAGBRAI’s social media accounts that he and the RAGBRAI staff had resigned Tuesday.
“This is a bittersweet day for me and my team,” he wrote.
Juskiewicz, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was one of four full-time members of the staff. The RAGBRAI staff also planned other bicycle events during the year, including the Pigtails, Bacoon and Big Rove rides.
Juskiewicz said in his online statement that his decision came after Gannett, which owns RAGBRAI, the Register and USA TODAY, “refused” to let him “answer the hundreds of passionate questions asked about the future of RAGBRAI following the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story.”
King is the 24-year-old Altoona resident who became a sensation after cameras caught him holding a hand-drawn sign as he stood behind the set of ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Ames on Sept. 14. Drawn on the sign, in plain black marker: “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished,” and King’s Venmo handle.
When the money poured in, far exceeding anything King had expected, he decided to donate the funds to the children’s hospital. Busch Light and Venmo pledged to match any donations, and several Iowa businesses also donated. King’s fund-raising eventually eclipsed the $3 million mark.
RAGBRAI announced on Sept. 27 that it was donating $50,000 to the children’s hospital.
A statement at the time said that in support of King’s efforts, RAGBRAI “is naming the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital as our charitable cause for the upcoming RAGBRAI events. Through the proceeds from these events, RAGBRAI will pledge $50,000 toward their $2,000,000 goal.”
Each year, approximately 20 charities receive contributions on behalf of RAGBRAI, Des Moines Register Media and the Gannett Foundation. Additionally, RAGBRAI provides financial support to the eight RAGBRAI overnight host communities.
The primary geographic focus for charitable giving is the greater Des Moines area and central Iowa. Additionally, the organization supports unique statewide initiatives with the potential to benefit all Iowans. RAGBRAI focuses its contributions on programs that address issues related to families, children and community enrichment.
Since its inception, about 400,000 people have ridden at least some part of RAGBRAI. Its route has gone through each of Iowa’s 99 counties.
A search of the Secretary of State’s website did not show that “Iowa’s Ride” or any similar spellings had been registered as a business.
Register reporter Linh Ta contributed to this story.