Volunteer labor abounds behind the scenes of BRR

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Hours of behind-the-scenes volunteer labor went into the 40th Anniversary BRR Bike Ride to Rippey Saturday.


Some 2,000 riders participated in the 40th annual BRR Bike Ride to Rippey Saturday, making it one of the largest and most successful BRR stagings, according to Bob Wilson, executive director of the Perry Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the chilly ride.

“We had almost 900 riders preregistered this year, between advance and day-of,” Wilson said, “and Scott Finneseth, our counter at Country Club Road, counted almost 2,000 bikers ride buy.”


Volunteer labor is essential the success of such events, and it abounds behind the scenes in BRR, which draws wide participation from Perry’s citizens and service groups.

Work started about 4:30 a.m., when the women of the Regina Guild started in on baking 500 cinnamon rolls in the ovens of the St. Patrick’s School kitchen using Rita Smithson’s timeless recipe.

Manning the St. Pat’s stoves nearby were members of the Perry Lions Club, who began cracking and scrambling some 66 dozen eggs about 6 a.m.

Downtown saw volunteer activity, too, with Perry Chamber of Commerce President Lee Coons and Perry Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Clint Nelson setting up tables and street baricades, brought in advance by the Perry Public Works Department.

At dawn the members of the 1168th Transportation Company of the Iowa National Guard, stationed at the armory in Perry, arrived to set up the field tents for the after-ride entertainment. The tents were strategically placed next to the 10-tap mobile beer truck.

Inside the hotel, preparations were made for the registered riders, with breakfast served in the Spring Valley Ballroom and rider registration materials at tables in the lobby. Booths were also ready for the Let’s Connect committee, the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association and the American Discovery Trail.

“Thank you for an extremely successful event and weekend,” said Jay Hartz, owner of the Hotel Pattee, the hub of the pre-ride activities in Perry. Hartz said he was grateful to “– in no particular order– the volunteers, our hotel guests who overnighted with us, our bar and restaurant customers, the Perry Chamber, our fabulous staff, the riders — particularly those who registered and paid — the National Guard who donated their tents and their time and Team Good Beer.”

“Thanks, Perry Chamber of Commerce, but I’ll ride from here,” quipped Perry Economic Development Inc. leader Rich Saemisch from his enclave in the Villages, Fla. Photo courtesy Rich Saemisch

The ride itself featured many stops familiar to riders after 40 years. Hy-Vee hosted its Halfway Hot Chocolate Shop, with original BRR member Larry Vodenik staffing the stand.

“I was at the hot chocolate stop all day,” Vodenik said, which is perhaps better than spending all day at the Chocolate Shop. “I had a great time and met some neat people from all around the state and several other states as well.”

Vodenik holds a place in BRR history because he owned the Rippey Tap at the time of the first ride in 1977.

“I owned the bar in Rippey, the Rippey Tap, for the very first ride,” he said. “That small group of riders warmed up in my bar and then returned to Perry.”¬†Although he has never ridden in BRR, Vodenik has been part of the ground crew, in one way or another, every year.

The Hy-Vee Halfway Chocolate Stop. Photo courtesy Larry Vodenik

“What really made my day this year was when one of BRR’s founders stopped to visit me,” he said. “Dennis Hurley rode his bike up and stopped to say hello on his way to Rippey. He and Jim Walstrom were the two crazy guys who 40 years ago came up with the idea for a winter bike ride that became BRR. When those two came to my bar looking for a pit stop in Rippey, I thought they were nuts, but so was I! So I said count me in. The rest is history.”

The Rippey Tap. Photo courtesy Larry Vodenik

Rippey amenities included the East Greene Youth Fellowship’s baked potato bar, the Rippey Lions Club’s roast beef sundaes and the Rippey Volunteer Fire Department’s beer tent.

The Hotel Pattee’s heated-tent block party ran from noon until 5 p.m., with musical guests Jason Walsmith and Brad Seldenfeld partying with the pedalers, most of whom were pretty pooped after battling 30 mph headwinds on the ride home.

“It was a huge success this year,” said Wilson. “Your serious bikers know the BRR Ride as well as they know RAGBRAI, and it’s kept us on the map for years. The Chamber is proud to be continuing this great tradition.”

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