The largest collection of RAGBRAI-related art will make its debut at the Carnegie Library Museum in Perry when RAGBRAI pulls into town on July 22.
Also pulling into town will be Brian Duffy, along with as many as 100 artistic pieces from some of his many cartoons to sketches.
"I was approached by Laura Stebbins (of Perry) who asked me to do this prior to BRR (Perry’s Bike Ride to Rippey) but I didn’t have time to pull it together," he said. "Then we talked about doing something connected with RAGBRAI and I figured this would be a very good venue.
Duffy said it provides a great opportunity to drag out the cartoons, not just of RAGBRAI or BRR, but also of different cycling events he has been in throughout his career as a cartoonist. His career spans many years, most of which he spent as the cartoonist at The Des Moines Register. However, as with many cartoonists across the United States, his job was eliminated in December of 2008, along with more than 50 additional positions at the largest newspaper in Iowa.
But, he found that his life and talent went on after leaving the Register. His cartoons are syndicated nationally through King Media, and he now has 30 smaller Iowa newspapers he does Iowa-themed cartoons for.
"My generation will probably be the last generation to make a living as a staff cartoonist. We may disappear completely," he said. "I wanted to stay in the field and received some great advice about staying here and building on my reputation and work."
Duffy began doing cartoons for City View in Des Moines, and then pitched an animated cartoon which runs on a Des Moines television station. Once a month he does a cartoon for Momentum magazine, a sports magazine that deals with endurance sports, racing, mountain biking and other sports. I do one cartoon for them a month.
In addition, creates two or three cartoons a week for the national syndicate, then three cartoons on state issues for the various Iowa newspapers he has signed on such as Ames, Pella, Knoxville, Bloomfield, Ottumwa, Burlington, Sioux City and Carroll.
"That gives me an opportunity to draw cartoons on state issues," he said. Duffy said he likes doing work for the smaller newspapers. The great thing about smaller newspapers, is they are the only places to see the news of these communities they serve, he said. Years ago, the Register would have told many of the stories of the smaller communities, but they don’t do that anymore.
"We now live in the digital age, and people think that all information can be gleaned from the Internet, but that’s not really so. Often finding information on a smaller community, the details of life, is like catching one specific snowflake in a blizzard," he said.
After all, Duffy said, it is the people in the smaller Iowa communities that have made RAGBRAI possible year after year.
"I’m proud of the people who have made RAGBRAI a success," he said. "There are new generations of people moving back to these small towns of Iowa and becoming chamber heads and community leaders, you see something that you are not reading about anyplace else."
Duffy said that while there are state-wide rides in other states, none have been as successful, or as large as RAGBRAI.
When he was covering RAGBRAI for the Register, he didn’t particularly enjoy the ride as much as people might think. "I was constantly observing and riding a bike the entire way. And then I had to get the work don and get it in on deadline," Duffy said. "I wouldn’t just draw one cartoon, but I would also do three or four, quick "I was out there riding a bike, stopping occasionally to sketch something I saw, then get to the next town, finish the cartoon and get it in by deadline. In the early days, before the technology we have today was available, that was often a challenge."
He remembers one night when he faxed his cartoon to the newspaper from a funeral home. "It was a little eerie," he said.
While the Register had reporters out covering the event as well, it isn’t the same as covering it from a bicycle, he said. "There are things that happen, kind of like a flash mob, when you are passing something that happens or you see in between towns, and the only way to see these things is when you are on a bike. We would pass things on the way, such as people who have 30-40 old tractors lined up on their property. Also there is the scenery. A couple of times when I was riding through the Loess Hills early in the morning, riding toward Mapleton, it was just beautiful."
Duffy said that although RAGBRAI is important, he sees the BRR ride that goes from Perry to Rippey and back to Perry the first Saturday in February, as just as important as RAGBRAI because it kicks off the season and it is a way for a lot of team members who haven’t seen each other to get back together. "It’s a really neat event," he said.
The Carnegie Library Museum will be open from noon to 8 p.m. July 22 and entry is free to the public. Duffy also will be on hand for some of that afternoon. He also will be leaving his display at the museum for a number of months.