Although a fierce storm brought Monday night activities to a sudden end, Perry Police Chief Dan Brickner said the city’s handling of thousands of RAGBRAI riders should be thought of as successful.
"That (the storm) was really the worst case scenario and I know the city was disappointed that things had to end, but everything went as well as could be expected under the circumstances," Brickner said. "We were prepared for just such an incident."
The storm hit Perry at about 8:30 p.m. Monday, just when the RAGBRAI visitors – riders, crew, transport drivers – were filing into the large beer garden in preparation for a night of fun, including several bands and plenty of beverages.
Perry Police Officer Jerome Hill said Tuesday morning that several hundred people were already in the beer garden when the storm hit. High winds caused amplifiers that had been stacked on the main stage (set up for the headlining "Hairball" band) to collapse.
"Fortunately, we had people out of the area and to shelters when that happened and there were no injuries," Hill said. "It was just a shame that had to happen right before the main entertainment."
Brickner gave a conservative estimate of 25,000 as the number of people who were in Perry overnight.
"There were at least 15,000 campers at sites we (the city) provided," he said. "There’s no way to estimate the number of others camped in yards and other places around Perry. The total number could have been even greater than 25,000."
Brickner said his department made just one arrest. A man was hauled away on a drunk and disorderly charge.
"I don’t even think the person we arrested was on the RAGBRAI ride, but was here just for the party," he said.
Brickner was also pleased that there were no injury reports in the city itself.
"I do know there was a gap in a road near Dawson (180th and D) and that caused several riders to fall," Brickner said. "I think there were a dozen or more ambulance calls to that area around 10:30 on Monday morning. Several riders suffered significant injury, including head injuries."
Brickner said, that despite Monday’s storm, visitors "seemed to enjoy their time in Perry."
"Several people said ‘thanks’ as they rode out this morning," he said. "Other officers said the same thing – people would say nice things about Perry."
Brickner summed things up by lauding the committees who planned the Perry event.
"The organization was great," he said. "The committees and volunteers all did a magnificent job in preparing for that many people staying here overnight."
Brickner also said the riders were cooperative, for the most part.
"I know there were a few who wanted to head out on the bike trail, but we discouraged that because there was no support available that way," he said. "The amazing thing was how rapidly the riders left today. I think it was a dozen years, or so, since Perry was on the RAGBRAI route and riders were still leaving town at noon.
"This year we had our officers off the streets by 10 a.m."