For the second time in three years, Centerville is preparing to swell three times its population size. Estimates of 16,000 RAGBRAI bikers spent an overnight in Appanoose County’s seat almost three years ago to the day.
"There's No Place Like Centerville," inspired by the Wizard of Oz, was the 2016 theme. The Centerville RAGBRAI Hospitality Committee has been hard at work for the past three months presenting this year's Monopoly-inspired theme: Take a Chance in Centerville. The 1934 boardgame has only grown in popularity over the years.
Centerville’s square is resembling a life-size version of the game, just in time to welcome RAGBRAI to town Wednesday afternoon.
Committee chairperson Bev Jewett explains how the square is rolling the dice to play Monopoly.
"Lotti [Wilson] and I will finish stenciling the playing board on the walks today," she said. "Then the game’s playing pieces will go up on the courthouse lawn soon. The wheelbarrow, the dog, all the playing pieces will be represented.”
“If you don’t know how to make a large thimble, turn a garbage can over and paint it silver," laughs Jewett. "Our hospitality committee is so talented and hardworking.”
Wilson continued on explaining the Monopoly theme, “We have painted 12 gaylords (large corrugated pallet boxes) to represent the game’s red houses and green motels. We will place those throughout the square.”
Jewett touched on the incredible behind-the-scenes work by several committees preparing to welcome RAGBRAI, “There’s the overall RAGBRAI committee and under that are several subcommittees, such as entertainment, food, housing, the publicity committee. The Garden Club is also involved.”
Bev makes clear what her favorite committee is.
"I'm one of the chairs on the committee, and I just think it's the best committee, we have so many creative people," she said. "There are 17 of us on the committee and it's a hard-working bunch. We have been at this for three months. We've been creating, painting, finding the supplies, pretty much nonstop for three months. Everyone talks about what we do. We also have 30 painted bicycles ready to be placed.
“Someone in the committee came up with such a creative idea. All the green trash receptacles around the square will be covered with bags, then tied with ropes and they'll have dollar signs on them. They’ll look like money bags,” smiled Bev.
Lotti spoke about work happening off of the square, "Tomorrow the big banner goes up on Highway Five and the smaller, paneled welcome sign goes up on Main Street.”
Just then a big gust of wind blew through the square lifting the flimsy stencils from the sidewalk. One after another, the stencils were taking flight, scattering in the wind like a bunch of scared quail. Lotti was already hustling after the floating stencils.
“Run Lotti Run,” encouraged Bev in a louder voice.
Will the two friends representing the RAGBRAI Hospitality Committee complete all of their preparations in time for Wednesday’s first bicycle sighting?
The answer was blowing in the wind.