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Jodee O'Brien

Jodee O'Brien

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MASON CITY | All hands on deck.

That's the message from city leaders preparing for RAGBRAI's overnight stop in Mason City on July 23.

"It's going to take the whole community," said Jodee O'Brien, executive director of Main Street Mason City, who is coordinating the overall preparations.

An early indication of the impact RAGBRAI is already having: Most hotels and motels in Mason City are sold out for that night, as are many in neighboring communities.

"We were booked up within 35 minutes of the announcement," said Crystal Shellhart, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Mason City. The Historic Park Inn, the Clarion Inn, Country Inn & Suites and Quality Inn & Suites also sold out soon after the announcement.

City Administrator Brent Trout said he has already attended several RAGBRAI planning sessions. Eventually committees will be formed to handle specific areas such as public safety, transportation, food and beverages, entertainment, housing and parking, among others. RAGBRAI officials recommend 19 committees be formed.

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact O'Brien by emailing her at

"If you want to volunteer in any way or you have a particular interest, let Jodee know," said Trout. "If your church group specializes in spaghetti dinners or making kabobs or some other specialty, let her know. You might be a vendor. If you have some other interest or just want to be a part of it, let her know."

O'Brien said putting all the pieces together is a mammoth task. "But we have the 'RAGBRAI Bible' -- a book they gave us that tells what we need to do. They are very well organized and experienced."

O'Brien said the speed with which hotels and motels filled up emphasizes the need to have a well-organized housing plan. For that reason, she is asking residents to hold off for now on making commitments to house RAGBRAI participants. 

"There have already been a large number of requests to reserve housing and camping from individuals, churches and businesses," she said.

"At the advice and request of RAGBRAI officials we are asking residents and property owners not to commit to reserving camping space or housing." 

O'Brien said RAGBRAI has proven processes that protect the riders and also residents of communities hosting the event.

"By following the formal process, we can insure that all guests are registered participants in RAGBRAI. If a rider is unregistered that means they have not signed the RAGBRAI waiver and release of liability," said O'Brien.

"Anyone in the community who houses unregistered riders opens themselves to full liability for whatever may happen when that rider is at their home," she said.

She is asking owners of businesses and churches that have large parcels of land not to commit or reserve them for camping.

"As we move forward in the planning process, all available land will be looked at by our housing committee and designated to fit the needs of the riders.

“The RAGBRAI system allows us to distribute RAGBRAI participants according to the best available campsite,” said O’Brien. “This allows the housing committee to best utilize the properties available in the community, whether it’s for a team of 50 or 200.”

No reservations will be made until RAGBRAI releases the names of registered participants after May 1. 

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