This year, ECI REC was delighted to take part in an Iowa tradition—Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). On their way to an overnight stop in Cedar Rapids, RAGBRAI bike riders were able to grab bandannas from the ECI REC and Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) volunteers at a booth in Shellsburg on July 26. They were also greeted by a Touchstone Energy® (TSE) hot air balloon.
The event, coordinated by CIPCO, was one of three cooperative display sites along the route. The others were in Marshalltown on July 25, hosted by Consumers Electric Cooperative, and in Cedar Rapids on July 27, hosted by CIPCO. ECI REC volunteers were Lisa Franck, Harry Ruth, and Teresa Floyd. CIPCO volunteers were Donna Griebel and Michelle Dirks.
At the site, the volunteers met up with the balloon crew of Pilot Byron Denhart and Crew Chief Ryan Carlton. “We thought we had volunteered to hand out a few thousand bandannas, snap a few photos, and head back to the office,” said Lisa Franck. “We ended up lending a hand inflating the balloon—we had no idea what we were in for!”
Pilot Denhart asked for three volunteers to help inflate the balloon, so Ruth and Franck held open the bottom as it filled with air, while Griebel took charge of the fan. After the balloon was inflated and the winds picked up, Ruth and Franck were asked to lend their strength to keep the balloon from floating away, which was no easy taskâ€•at times, they were completely lifted off the ground. The other volunteers made sure the balloon crew had bandannas to keep the sweat and hair out of their eyes, as well as catching everything on camera.
Though all were hot and tired by the end, the event was a success and the TSE balloon and bandannas were a hit with the riders. “Well, I can say you charged me up,” was one rider’s response. “It was a privilege for ECI REC to have the opportunity to assist with a national display during a national event within one of the communities we serve,” said Franck.