HomeTop StoriesGreenfield remains on the RAGBRAI 2024 route as tornado recovery continues

Greenfield remains on the RAGBRAI 2024 route as tornado recovery continues

Despite the death and devastation left behind by a deadly EF4 tornado that ripped through Greenfield in May, the city will still serve as the Day 3 meeting city for RAGBRAI on July 23, as announced in April, officials with the attraction and the RAGBRAI said Greenfield committee Tuesday. .

“After careful consideration and many conversations with local officials and partners, we have decided to welcome the RAGBRAI community to the ride this year,” Gina School, co-chair of the RAGBRAI Greenfield Committee and local business owner, said in a press release.

School said the committee changed its logo and theme to “Greenfield Strong, Rising After the Storm.”

Greenfield unveils its new logo and theme for RAGBRAI, "Greenfield Strong, rising after the storm."

Greenfield unveils its new logo and theme for RAGBRAI, “Greenfield Strong, Rising After the Storm.”

The May 21 tornado, with winds of 180 to 200 miles per hour, killed four people as it ripped through the town of 2,000. A woman also died after wrecking her car north of Corning, about 35 miles southwest.

Managers of the Register’s annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa had previously declined to comment on how the disaster would affect the route. The announcement that Greenfield will continue to participate comes a week after the annual RAGBRAI route inspection ride passed through the Adair County seat on June 4 and ride leaders spoke with city officials to determine what they could do to help them continue as hosts .

The school said RAGBRAI and its participants were constantly concerned about the city.

“Since the day after the tornado, the RAGBRAI team and riders from across the country have reached out with an outpouring of love and support,” she said. “We hope to allow riders to see some of the destruction, as well as experience our beautiful, pristine, historic town square, visit our local businesses and hear the stories of survival and perseverance of our citizens.”

Debris seen from the EF3 tornado that struck Greenfield is seen Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield.Debris seen from the EF3 tornado that struck Greenfield is seen Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield.

Debris seen from the EF3 tornado that struck Greenfield is seen Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield.

As a RAGBRAI meeting town, Greenfield will play a key role among the seven towns that more than 20,000 motorcyclists will pass through on their way from Atlantic to Winterset on July 23. It is in Greenfield, approximately the midpoint of the day’s 82-mile journey, where teams and individuals can meet their support drivers.

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At 1,500 feet, it’s also the highest point on the hilliest day of the weeklong Glenwood to Burlington ride, which will deliver the biggest elevation gain in RAGBRAI’s 51-year history.

What damage did the tornado in Greenfield, Iowa cause?

Riders on the RAGBRAI inspection ride through Greenfield on June 4.Riders on the RAGBRAI inspection ride through Greenfield on June 4.

Riders on the RAGBRAI inspection ride through Greenfield on June 4.

In addition to the four deaths, 35 people were injured in Greenfield, and the city continues to clear the wreckage on the south and east sides, where the storm destroyed or damaged about 200 homes and rendered the local hospital inoperable.

The Adair and Guthrie County Emergency Management Agency planned a final debris pickup on Tuesday morning, three weeks after the storm, and Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she would travel to Greenfield for a 3:30 p.m. disaster recovery meeting at City Hall.

Greenfield is the meeting city on day 3 of RAGBRAI 2024.Greenfield is the meeting city on day 3 of RAGBRAI 2024.

Greenfield is the meeting city on day 3 of RAGBRAI 2024.

The decision to remain a meeting town despite the recent destruction is partly due to the response of RAGBRAI riders, School told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday.

Knowing how riders wanted to support Greenfield, including through monetary donations, helped ease wariness among community members about so many people visiting so soon after the disaster, she said.

Many have said on online RAGBRAI forums that they hope to get a chance to contribute financially and perhaps in other ways to the city’s recovery.

“Bring us on Greenfield!” one rider posted on the city’s RAGBRAI committee Facebook page. “Ragbraiers only need food, drinks, cake and porta potties, but will always give back graciously and do what we can while passing through.”

Anna Abrams, organizer of the RAGBRAI Newbies page, has created a GoFundMe to help Greenfield tornado victims. Abrams encouraged the group’s 8,900 members to donate $1 to $5 per mile they rode on June 1 and 2 to train for RAGBRAI.

There was also an online Zwift ride where members of the group could ride together and make a donation to the charity.

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“Let’s help Greenfield recover and rebuild!” Abrams’ post said. “Greenfield is helping to support our ride this year, and now they need us to help them get there.”

RAGBRAI has a history of helping

Residents of Parkersburg are picking up the pieces after their city was hit by a major tornado in 2008.Residents of Parkersburg are picking up the pieces after their city was hit by a major tornado in 2008.

Residents of Parkersburg are picking up the pieces after their city was hit by a major tornado in 2008.

RAGBRAI has a long history of helping communities along its route overcome tragedies. In 1993, the ride was nearly canceled due to flooding that caused $15 billion in damage and 50 deaths in the Midwest. It went as planned and “was a huge boost for Iowa,” Chuck Offenburger, longtime Register Iowa columnist and co-host of the ride, said last year.

In 2012, Cedar Rapids celebrated its resilience by holding a 40th anniversary celebration for RAGBRAI after 2008 floods devastated the downtown area. And in 2010, Parkersburg used RAGBRAI to overcome two tragedies: a 2008 EF5 tornado that killed nine people, and the death the following year of the legendary local high school football coach, shot and killed by a former player who was later diagnosed with mental illness.

“Over the years, the route has intentionally gone to communities that have fallen on hard times,” Offenburger said.

To ensure Greenfield can handle the crowds, volunteers from other communities along the route will travel there on the day of the ride to lend a hand, says Ann Lawrie, director of the cycling division of Ventures Endurance, the subsidiary of Registered parent company Gannett Co. who arranges the ride.

Looking for volunteers outside the community also helps prevent local volunteer groups from coming under more pressure, School said. She said she doesn’t know exactly how many volunteers are needed at this time, but those interested can visit the Greenfield RAGBRAI 2024 Facebook page to fill out a volunteer form to help out the day of the ride or to help with cleanup efforts.

Greenfield won’t be the only recently tornado-hit city that RAGBRAI riders will pass through during the 2024 ride. That same day, they will camp in Winterset. On March 5, 2022, a tornado struck a neighborhood just south of that city and killed six people, including two children and their father.

Tornado sculpture made of bicycles recalls the tragic day on day 4 RAGBRAI and meets the history of the city

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Greenfield is adjusting previous RAGBRAI plans after the May 21 tornado

Debris is scattered across the hospital in Greenfield, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Several residents were killed when a tornado struck the city Tuesday afternoon.Debris is scattered across the hospital in Greenfield, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Several residents were killed when a tornado struck the city Tuesday afternoon.

Debris is scattered across the hospital in Greenfield, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Several residents were killed when a tornado struck the city Tuesday afternoon.

Nodaway Valley High School, on the northeast side of Greenfield, was considered where support vehicles would park. But the high school is being used as a Red Cross shelter and support station for victims, so parking will now be at the Adair County Fairgounds.

Cleanup efforts will keep Greenfield busy until RAGBRAI, in addition to the expected responsibilities associated with event planning, including securing portable bathrooms, putting up signs and finalizing a list of vendors for the day, School said.

Riders will be redirected to see some of the affected areas of Greenfield, in part to prevent people from wandering alone out of curiosity, she said. The committee will focus on cleaning those streets and ensuring there is no glass, nails or other debris that could affect riders and their bikes.

The center of action will be Greenfield’s scenic and largely unspoiled downtown area. Plans for entertainment there are changing, School said, and riders should anticipate meeting members of the Greenfield community and hearing their stories about the tornado.

More details about Greenfield’s plans for RAGBRAI, including detailed biking and driving routes around the city, will be released soon, according to a news release.

Rebuilding Greenfield for a future RAGBRAI

Greenfield also hopes to benefit from the riders’ generosity. Bins will be placed around the city to accept cash donations. There may also be a QR code that allows riders to donate via their phone.

Those are just two of the “many opportunities” riders will find if they want to support Greenfield, School said.

In the next five or six years, she hopes Greenfield can be selected again for RAGBRAI to celebrate the way the city had planned this year.

“People could really see what they helped rebuild with their help and donations, and they could see the impact it had, and how we could bounce back from all of this,” she said.

In addition to donations, Greenfield remaining on RAGBRAI’s route this year offers another opportunity identified long before the tornado.

“We wanted people to come just because Greenfield really has a lot of nice things and great amenities,” School said. “And the hope was that people will come to RAGBRAI, hang out for an hour and say, ‘Hey, that was a cool town. Why don’t we go back and explore it?'”

Paris Barraza is a trending general assignment reporter at the Des Moines Register. Reach her out pbarraza@registermedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.

Philip Joens covers retail and real estate for the Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-284-8184, pjoens@registermedia.com or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: Greenfield remains RAGBRAI 2024 meeting city despite tornado damage

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