SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) started in Sioux City 50 years ago and the event returns in the upcoming summer.  

When RAGBRAI first began in Sioux City in 1973, it wasn’t the massive event that it is now. Matt Anderson is the curator of history at the Sioux City Public Museum. While thousands of riders participate in RAGBRAI every summer, he said that was not the case during the event’s inaugural year.

“About 300 people started with them here in Sioux City and in their official records, they had something like 130 people signed up,” he said.

He said roughly 6,000 people particpated in 1978 when the event came back to Sioux City and the number of RAGBRAI riders grew steadily each year.

“When it came in 1988, it was about 8,000 people and by the early 2000s, it was about 10,000 people and that’s kind of where it’s averaged ever since,” Anderson said.

Roughly only 114 riders finished the entire course in its first year. Alex Watters is a member of the Sioux City City Council. He said once the city found out they’d be kicking off RAGBRAI for the eighth time, planning and preparations began.

“We’re getting everyone together, a lot of stakeholders, our meeting to talk about what the plan is going to be, how we can make sure it’s going to be a great experience for all the participants, their families and the fans but really it’s going to take a huge effort especially a lot of volunteers and other individuals coming together to make this happen,” Watters said.

Sioux City last hosted RAGBRAI in 2015 and Watters said he hopes the riders notice how the city has changed in the eight years that’s passed.

“We think that we have a lot of amazing things to show them, things that have changed throughout our community,” he said. “I mean especially if we’re talking quality of life and bike trails, we’re going to be right there with the riverfront and so looking forward for that to be finished so our riders and participants can enjoy that.”

The RAGBRAI route will span 500 miles, starting in Sioux City on July 22 and it ends in Davenport on July 29.