Near Anthon — Lance Hamann turned out to be Iowa’s answer to Max Yasgur on Sunday.
Like the Woodstock, New York farmer who allowed the promoters of a certain 1969 outdoor rock ‘n’ roll festival to use his land, Hamann didn’t really know what he was getting into.
He was looking to lure a few runners off the RAGBRAI road which passed directly by his farm by offering them lunch in the hopes that they would make voluntary donations to his church, St. Paul Lutheran in nearby Midway.
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Then he agreed to let Mr. Pork Chop, one of the rock stars among the RAGBRAI vendors, move into the farm. The promise of pig nirvana brought runners like an anchor tenant in a mall.
Also on Hamann’s farm, the Maple Valley Anthon Oto Charter Oak Ute School District held a fundraiser for their athletic programs. Other vendors offered lemonade and an FFA group had a petting zoo. Riders could even take photos with an oversized bull or visit a farmer’s request stand to sate their curiosity about the verdant landscape they’d spent the day riding through.
Thousands of weary cyclists among the crowd of more than 18,000 people paused in Hamann Square, their legs tired from the second hilliest day of this year’s annual Big Register Bike Ride through Iowa .
It was a natural place to breathe. At 1,475 feet above sea level, this is the highest point of this year’s hike and proved to be an ideal vantage point to watch the runners ascend the road from the valley below .
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By early Sunday afternoon, demand exceeded Hamann’s supplies.
“I tried to find propane tanks so we could run the grills,” he said. “We had no idea how it would turn out.”
“Few opportunities to bring people from all over the world to the middle of a cornfield in Iowa,” said his 18-year-old son Camric.
The St. Paul Lutheran fundraiser donated burgers, brats and sweet corn. Proceeds raised will support a church missionary and a rooftop project, Lance Hamann said.
Perhaps the biggest attraction proved to be a little too popular. Hamann created an oversized sculpture of a bicycle with hay bales for the wheels and a steel tube frame and handlebars. To top it off, there was a golf cart seat on a tall pole.
“I thought people would think it was corny,” Hamann said.
He posted a photo of it on Facebook and word of the fundraiser spread through the RAGBRAI social media ecosystem. In the comments, everyone was talking about wanting to get up in the seat of the bike.
By 1 p.m., riders who ignored signs telling them to stay away had broken a weld on the seat post. Hamann shrugged. Even though he had to hold off the rowdy late-day runners to keep them in line, they kept coming and going.
“There’s activity everywhere,” Hamann said. “Everyone is busy.”
His son, an agricultural business major at Iowa State University, marveled at the naivety of some of the runners — many from Iowa — about the industry that takes up more than 90% of the land in Iowa. ‘State. At one point, he said, a rider in the tent asking a farmer asked why the crops were in rotation.
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Even Iowans in towns like Ames don’t understand farm life, Camric Hamann said.
“It’s in the middle of an agricultural state,” he said.
But he was glad they took the opportunity to enlighten themselves. Eight farmers with different perspectives were on hand to talk to any rider who wanted to chat, he said.
“I find it interesting how little some people know about how their food is raised and where it comes from,” he said. He quoted some who did not know the difference between a dairy cow and a steer.
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“You can’t milk a cow and get meat out of it, or you usually don’t.” he said. “I found that was something some people thought.”
As the last RAGBRAI runners began to filter past the farmhouse, any annoyance was more than offset by the gratitude the Hamanns felt for visitors who filled the coffers of St. Paul Lutheran while enjoying their slice of paradise for a Sunday after- noon perfect as a postcard.
Like Yasgur praising the Woodstock crowd for proving that “half a million young people can come together…and have nothing but fun and music.” Lance Hamann was happy to have hosted such a popular event as expected.
“It’s a better experience than I thought it would be,” he said.
Philip Joens is on his 17th RAGBRAI. He completed the river-to-river hike five times. He covers breaking news, municipal government and RAGBRAI for the Des Moines Register and can be reached at 515-443-3347 at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.
Going for a ride this year? Email or call Joens, call or text him if you have a story to share.