Sunday in Iowa is "Bike Day". Actually it's been "Bike Day" for the past two weeks as thousands of riders have been gearing up for the week long, 477 mile trek across the state.
The 35th "Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa" (RAGBRAI) is a ride of monster proportions and it is also a great lesson in marketing.
I came to Iowa in 1979, several years after the first RAGBRAI. In those days riders numbered only a couple of thousand. Still, it was large enough that the founders of the ride (several journalists/bike riders) from the Des Moines Register were minor celebrities I was doing morning radio here and "the guys", Karras, Kaul and Offenburger were always good for an interview or two.
I'm sure they really didn't think it would get so big that in year 34 and 35 Lance Armstrong, who is to the world of cycling as Gordie Howe is to hockey, would tag along for the ride and raise thousands for his cancer foundation "LIVESTRONG".
But it has. In part the success of RAGBRAI are the people who ride. People from nearly every state in the Union, and far flung countries like Uganda, come to ride and make a statement. And then go home and tell others of the wonder we call Iowa.
But, more than any event in the state (outside of the Iowa State Fair) RAGBRAI has figured out the secret to success. They get as many people involved in the event as possible. From town councils who will see the population of their "cities" double or triple (and struggle to find housing) to churches where members will gather to bake pies to sell to hungry riders. All along the 477 mile route people get involved...and prosper.
It's a lesson in success and positive public relations and for those of us in business or politics. It addresses what is sometimes elusive...inclusion in the process. Even if it's only baking pies.
Program Note...Sunday morning at 8am the rural lifestyle radio show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country is on...if you're in the area you can catch us on 98.3 WOW-FM.
Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications, where we've been oiling chains and gears...and living through the excitement of the great adventure. Thanks to The Register for the Photos.