The Winneshiek County communities of Decorah, Ossian and Castalia will be pass-through towns during the 45th Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) this summer.
Bikers will peddle through Decorah Friday, July 28, during Nordic Fest and continue to Ossian and Castalia before heading to Waukon
Local officials said the selection of Decorah as a “pass-through” community was a result of many Decorah residents and business owners reaching out to RAGBRAI organizers to support the ride. RAGBRAI begins Saturday, July 22, in Orange City and concludes Saturday, July 29, in Lansing. Other overnight stops are Spencer, Algona, Clear Lake, Charles City, Cresco and Waukon.
RAGBRAI representatives also said taking the ride through Decorah is the safest for participants and they are excited to showcase the beauty of the area. Decorah will be the first stop on the Friday route following an overnight stay in Cresco.
“We are very excited to find a compromise that allows RAGBRAI and Nordic Fest to overlap. The Fest will allow us to provide a unique and memorable experience for the riders. Luther College will be a fun addition for RAGBRAI’s Friday theme, College Spirit Day,” Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristina Wiltgen said.
“Because of the excitement in the community over the new hotel, our local breweries and renewed focus on recreation and tourism, there is enthusiasm about this announcement. Having RAGBRAI come through central Winneshiek County will help showcase our area to a whole new group of people,” Decorah City Manager Chad Bird added.
RAGBRAI was last in Decorah in 1999, when the city served as an overnight stop. Because RAGBRAI and Nordic Fest typically fall at the same time of July, it has been difficult to plan or host both events. The route for 2017 will bring riders through Decorah during the morning when the community will welcome them, leaving most of the day open to traditional Nordic Fest activities.
“Nordic Fest is excited to have RAGBRAI pass through Decorah. This will allow us to showcase Decorah’s traditional Nordic Fest to a new audience and a large group of cyclists who may not otherwise attend. The Nordic Fest board will continue to focus on maintaining the authentic character of the Fest. The traditions of the past 50 years will continue to be upheld,” Nordic Fest President Laurie Meinholz said.
Bird and Wiltgen will be working to develop a committee to plan for and support RAGBRAI as it passes through Decorah. Anyone interested in participating should call Wiltgen at 563-382-3990 or email

Ossian, Castalia
RAGBRAI leaves Decorah on county road W-38 toward Ossian, a community that’s been on the route two times before.
“We have a small committee we’re bringing together to plan activities,” said Ossian resident Clark Goltz.
Other Ossian residents serving on the planning committee include Terry Linderbaum, Pam Buddenberg and Joyce Bakewell.
Goltz said the organizations that will be involved in fund-raising activities during RAGBRAI would share all the costs and then divide the proceeds. As the committee adds other representatives from the community, members will focus on different responsibilities, including food, decorations, traffic and cleanup.
“It’s going to be great. We’re excited that it’s coming through Ossian,” Goltz said. “We’re gearing up for it. We’re going to be ready.”
Goltz said Ossian’s new educational and performance pavilion will be open the weekend of RAGBRAI and live misc will be performed there as riders go through town. Goltz also said no other communities would have the bike-themed decorations Ossian is planning.

Anyone interested in volunteering or organizations that want to be involved during RAGBRAI should contact City Clerk Joyce Bakewell.
Castalia City Clerk Chris Bodensteiner said the community is just beginning to plan activities for RAGBRAI. The ride has never traveled through Castalia before.

Castalia residents Margaret Jones and Marlene Mengelson are the co-chairs of the RAGBRAI committee. Anyone with questions or who is interested in volunteering should contact them.