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RAGBRAI: The Economic Impact

posted on October 13, 2007 at 1:33 PM


Aside from the state’s fairs, the Iowa calendar is chock full of other venues of fun. The scope of the events is considerable and eclectic. But tracking the cost and benefits of events is not easy.

Iowa has a unique festival which has a statewide economic impact.

It’s RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register’s annual bike ride across the state. RAGBRAI could be considered a fair on wheels and brings many towns a one-day economic boost. Ten thousand bicyclists register for every day of the week-long ride, and more than half of them are from out of state.

Swenson: RAGBRAI is kind of interesting. It almost is a traveling virtual fair. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. It’s never in one place very long. Sometimes it’s a hit; sometimes it’s a miss, depending on the weather and other kinds of things whether everything that a community plans for RAGBRAI happens. But every community that’s going to host a RAGBRAI visit, they try to make it a big deal and they try to get other things. They don’t just want the RAGBRAI visitors to come and buy and to entertain themselves, they want the locals to come as well. They want to try to turn it into a one-day festival.

Every year we'll get a phone call and somebody wants to know, well, you know, RAGBRAI is coming to my town, what's the economic impact? And I tell them pretty big for one day. And what do you get? You get 12- to 15,000 hungry, sweaty, tired, stinky people. They spend about fifty bucks a day somewhere, and so what you want is that money spent locally. And if they're going to spend it locally and they're going to buy your tenderloins and your apple pies and your malts and your beer, then you're going to have a one-day boost to your economy, and that’s a pretty good thing for a small town.

Does it have a huge economic impact? Yes, because a lot of the RAGBRAI riders come from outside of the state of Iowa, so they drop a lot of money all across the state. So RAGBRAI does have a discernable and pretty good economic impact. It lasts six days or more, and so there's a lot of spending by a lot of non-Iowans as a consequence.

Tags: bicycles economy Iowa RAGBRAI tourism

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