Small businesses are preparing for big RAGBRAI crowds


MASON CITY, Iowa –  The days until Mason City is overwhelmed with RAGBRAI riders are dwindling. It’s a race to the finish as many local establishments finalize their preparations. But, when the business is small and you’re expecting these big crowds, those preparations become that much more difficult.

“For RAGBRAI, we knew it would just be a crazy day,” says Mason City Brewing co-owner, Jake Rajewsky.

He and his team have thought through everything when it comes to big business during RAGBRAI. From specialty, plastic, beer growlers to who’s getting the tips, they have it all figured out, but catering to big business is hard in such a small place. That’s especially true when it comes to brewing hundreds of gallons of their specialty; beer.

“We’re very limited with how much space we have, how much brew area, and how much fermentation we have, and our cooler is tiny,” says Rajewsky.

With thousands of dollars on the line in a single day, they weren’t afraid to ask for help.

“We approached our friends over at West O Beer in Okoboji about either doing a collaboration, or just asking them if they would contract to making a batch for us, and they were up for it,” says Rajewsky.

25 kegs and a U-Haul later, they say they’re ready. Inside those kegs are a special brew just for that day. Rajewsky tells us it’s a lighter India Pale Ale, perfect for days after a long bike ride. He says they will have plenty of volunteers serving those folks, and all tips will go towards constructing biking and hiking trails in Murphy Park in Mason City.

They are only one of sixty food and beverage vendors that day. Troy Levenhagen owns the SuzieQ Cafe. He says with his location, he’d better be ready.

“What a perfect location. We’re going to be right across from the band, which means there will be 10 to 15,000 people across the street,” Levenhagen says.

He knows that it takes a lot of food to satisfy that many people.

“We’ve got over 1,000 tenderloins coming. We’re going to be doing 1,000 tacos, we’ve got 2,000 waters, and we have 15 cases of cheese balls,” he says.

Now, all he needs are hungry people.

“We’re ready to hit RAGBRAI full force,” says Levenhagen.

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