Category Archives: Simply Put

Simply Put – April 8, 2015

By Mike Whittlesey


At a meeting with RAGBRAI officials last week, much attention was focused on the services and activities that get riders to dismount from their bikes to spend their time and money in the communities along the route. There can be no denying that RAGBRAI offers tremendous economic opportunities for each city and town the riders visit. And with at least ten miles separating La Porte City from the nearest communities on the route, many cyclists will certainly be ready for a break when the trail leads them to La Porte City.

RAGBRAI’s last visit to La Porte City came in 1983. Since that time, the event has grown more than 30%, if measured solely by the number of riders participating. Fortunately, our community has some experience with planning a summer party, though six hours of RAGBRAI in LPC has the potential to make the two day Festival of Trails Celebration look almost pedestrian.

This year, there are nearly 50 cities and towns along the RAGBRAI route, including a half dozen or so even smaller, unincorporated communities. More than half of them are populated by fewer than 1,000 people. Preparing your community to greet and serve a group more than ten times its size is a monumental undertaking. Yet each year, hundreds of small towns throughout the state lobby to bring RAGBRAI to their communities. Why? In addition to the millions of dollars riders from each of the 50 states pour into local economies, RAGBRAI offers the cities and towns along the route an unprecedented opportunity for self-promotion.

On July 23rd, what will the visitors who pass through La Porte City remember most about our city? Do you have an idea for a theme and/or activities that will make the day especially memorable? If so, the city’s RAGBRAI Steering Committee wants to hear it. As our community begins the process of preparing for the event, the level of enthusiasm already being expressed by local citizens is an indication that riders who stop in La Porte City will leave better for the experience.

For the latest information about RAGBRAI’s visit to La Porte City, visit the La Porte City Facebook page devoted to RAGBRAI at or You can also use these sites to share your ideas for making La Porte City an unforgettable stop on the RAGBRAI tour. In anticipation of the events that will take place in La Porte City on July 23rd, many, many volunteers will also be needed in the days before, during and after RAGBRAI’s visit. Want to help? Logon today to complete a volunteer form or call City Hall at 342-3396 to express your desire to share your time and talents with what promises to be the biggest community event of the year. Volunteer forms are also available at City Hall (202 Main Street) and The Progress Review (213 Main Street).

Additional information about the ride, including RAGBRAI’s rules and regulations for vendors, will be published in The Progress Review and posted online as it becomes available.

Simply Put – April 1, 2015

By Mike Whittlesey

So many pranks, so few opportunities…
Though not on the scale of Halley’s Comet, which makes an appearance every 75 years or so, this year is only the second time since the turn of the century that The Progress Review’s official publication date has fallen on April 1. While it might be tempting to include an outlandish story that defies belief, or insert a photograph upside down to see if anyone notices, we’d like to be taken seriously the other 51 weeks of the year. So, as you go about your business this April Fool’s Day, know that this edition of The Progress Review has been designed with the same care and attention to detail as every other issue during the year (which, sadly, is not to say it is completely free of errors…).
The origins of April Fool’s Day actually date back hundreds of years, with no one explanation for how the day came to be an absolute certainty. In more recent times, though, there have been some rather memorable pranks carried out.
For example, on April 1, 1957, the British Broadcasting Company was responsible for airing one of the first April Fool’s jokes to appear on television. As part of the news program entitled “Panorama,” one segment of the show detailed the efforts to harvest Switzerland’s spaghetti crop. The report included video footage of the spaghetti harvest, where families were shown picking spaghetti strands from trees and placing them into baskets. Thankfully, it was a bumper noodle crop that year, thanks to the mild winter and the low numbers of that dreaded pasta pest, the evil spaghetti weevil. Following the show, one operator advised a caller who wanted to know where such a spaghetti tree could be purchased locally, to “…place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Cookie lovers may recall a hoax that has circulated for many years via e-mail- the story of a woman and daughter who loved the chocolate chip cookies they were served at Nieman Marcus so much, they purchased the recipe. Later, when the woman received her credit card bill and was shocked to learn she had been charged $250, not $2.50 for the world famous recipe, she began a campaign to send it to anyone and everyone she could. Interestingly enough, when this hoax first appeared, chocolate chip cookies were not on the Nieman Marcus menu. That has since changed. In fact, a box of 50 cookies can now be purchased on the Nieman Marcus website for the low price of $25, plus shipping.
In 1985, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” written by George Plimpton for Sports Illustrated, told the story of Hayden “Sidd” Finch, a former Harvard student and Buddhist monk-in-training. Finch was reportedly at the New York Mets training camp that Spring, despite never having played baseball. He had learned the “Art of the Pitch” while traveling in Tibet and could throw a ball a reported 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. In his 13 page essay, Plimpton offered up a clue the story was bogus to readers, using the following phrase under the story’s headline: “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd’s deciding about yoga- and his future in baseball.” Upon closer examination, the first letters of these words spelled out “Happy April Fools Day.” Two years after composing what is still considered one of the greatest deceptions in sports journalism, Plimpton developed the story into a novel, sold in the fiction section of book stores, of course.
With so many pranks out there, hopefully the first of April will come and go leaving you free of being subjected to some form of a fool’s errand. To be on the safe side, though, it’s probably best not to take ourselves, or any other strange event that may happen today, too seriously.

Simply Put – March 25, 2015

By Mike Whittlesey

In case you haven’t heard, RAGBRAI will be rolling through La Porte City on Thursday, July 23. As excitement begins to build, La Porte City’s participation in the event is being billed as RIDE LPC 7-23.
This year marks the 42nd annual bike ride across the state of Iowa. RAGBRAI was conceived in 1973 by a Des Moines Register editor, John Karras, and columnist, Donald Kaul. Kaul, who lived in Washington, D.C. at the time, agreed to a week-long bike ride across the state to see and write about the people and places of Iowa if Karras, an avid cyclist himself, would join him. Records indicate that a total of 114 riders completed that inaugural ride. By 1983, the last time the RAGBRAI route included La Porte City as a pass-through community, the event had mushroomed to include more than 6,500 riders.
In the coming weeks, we will begin to formulate a plan to welcome thousands of bike riders to our community in what will be a truly unique opportunity to show visitors what makes La Porte City a special place to live. While preparations to welcome thousands of visitors to our community will, no doubt, entail a lot of work, the effort is not unprecedented. Each summer, thousands follow the various trails to La Porte City for the enjoyment of the Festival of Trails Celebration in June.
Thanks to the growth of RAGBRAI, more than 40 years of experience have been condensed into the pages of a handbook that is distributed to pass-through communities along the route. Among the many proven strategies other host communities have found successful over the years are some interesting facts about the ride. Consider:

More than 225 communities are on a waiting list to serve as RAGBRAI hosts.
RAGBRAI limits the number of full-week riders to 8,500.
Each day on the route, RAGBRAI allows for an additional 1,500 single-day riders.
Approximately 3,000 non-riders in support vehicles will also participate in the event.
More than 60% of RAGBRAI participants will come from outside the state of Iowa.

On March 28, members of a group from La Porte City will join other 2015 pass-through communities throughout the state for a meeting with RAGBRAI officials in Webster City. At that time, important information about the ride will be communicated to each host community, with a special emphasis placed on the safety and well-being of the bicycle riders, as well as those who greet them along the way.
The City has already received numerous inquiries from individuals and organizations wanting to help with the plans to welcome RAGBRAI to La Porte City. Certainly, a large number of volunteers will be needed (and appreciated).
The Progress Review is pleased to join the effort to help facilitate communications for the event. Information related to RAGBRAI’s visit on July 23 can be found online at www.theprogressreview/RAGBRAI and on La Porte City’s Facebook page devoted to all things RAGBRAI: E-mail related to RAGBRAI’s visit to La Porte City can be sent to

Simply Put – December 24, 2014

By Mike Whittlesey

The front page of this Christmas edition of The Progress Review, entitled “Postcards from Home,” contains images of the recent past and present La Porte City. No other holiday evokes memories of home quite like Christmas. Perhaps that is why we are so drawn to images of the Union Carolers decked out in their Victorian attire (besides the incredible beauty of their harmonious vocals) and the sight of a horse and carriage in the snow.
The world certainly is a little more complicated than it was during the days when the horse and buggy was considered a primary source of transportation. In 2014, the holiday season’s digital footprint continues to grow at an increasing rate of speed. Letters to Santa? You can set your pen and paper aside and send your wish via e-mail. While I haven’t taken the time to look, there probably are ways to text the S-Man directly or access some form of a North Pole Facebook page, where you can upload your “likes.”
There is no doubt technology can play a helpful role in our preparations to celebrate the Christmas holiday. With so much hustle and bustle that comes with the season, is it possible to get caught up in all the excitement and lose track of what it is that makes the holiday truly special? Contained in the 16 pages of newsprint you now hold, dear reader, are features we hope will add meaning to your holiday season.
Within this special edition, you’ll find the meaning of Christmas expressed in a variety of ways. We are especially grateful to the area ministers who have taken time from their busy schedules to share messages of peace and hope. If you’re looking for a place of worship to celebrate the season, please note the service dates and times listed among their essays.
Another view of the season comes from La Porte City Elementary School fifth graders, who share what Christmas means to them on pages four and five. It is interesting to note how many references to the word “family” can be found in their writings.
Holiday greetings also abound from area merchants, whose best wishes of the season spread throughout this issue make this special edition possible. We hope you enjoy these features, along with holiday images from the annual Home Lighting Contest and the concerts so beautifully presented by the staff and students in our local schools.
Like the images presented on the front page of this edition, each of these features can be seen as a postcard from home in their own unique way. For more postcards, logon to our website ( or Facebook page ( and click on the link to view a video slide show featuring the holiday lights of La Porte City. Happy holidays and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year from The Progress Review!

Simply Put – June 25, 2014

By Mike Whittlesey

Last week, on the return flight from Washington DC, Jim Coloff encouraged the Honor Flight veterans and their guardians to thank the corporate sponsors that help make such flights possible. Coordinating the effort to transport area veterans to Washington DC and back is a massive undertaking. It is also a costly one, as the bill for airfare, meals, bus transportation and other expenses incurred during the one day field trip to the nation’s capital typically exceeds six figures.
At the heart of Sullivan-Hartogh-Davis Post 730 is a group of volunteers, a committee responsible for organizing the trips, along with raising the money to pay for them. When the final Waterloo Honor Flight of 2014 is made in September, nearly 1,000 veterans in the Cedar Valley will have received an all expense paid trip to Washington DC since the group’s inaugural flight in 2011.
As long as there is a need, the good folks associated with Waterloo Honor Flight remain committed to the task of sending area veterans to Washington DC. The cost to do so, however, is not measured solely in dollars. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to organize each flight, from the paperwork associated with each applicant and guardian, to preparing for potential medical emergencies that may arise during the journey. These duties come with a cost, as the amount of time available for family and friends is compromised.
Over the past four years, the success of the Waterloo Honor Flight program can be traced back to the people and organizations who have stepped up and made a commitment to the veterans of the Cedar Valley when it was needed most. Last month, for example, John Deere followed the example of Burke Miehe and American Pattern & CNC Works, sponsoring a flight with a six figure donation. Likewise, as members of the Honor Flight organizing committee have relinquished their roles, other volunteers have come forward to take their place, offering a renewed sense of energy that has allowed the Honor Flight program to continue.
While dates for Waterloo Honor Flights in 2015 have yet to be confirmed, applications from veterans, guardians and other volunteers are still being accepted. To learn more about the program and to access the application forms, logon to
Earlier this month, the La Porte City Lions Club hosted the 28th Annual Festival of Trails Celebration. While the weather cooperated nicely for the Friday evening parade and fireworks, attendance on Saturday was noticeably lighter, perhaps as a result of My Waterloo Days being held on the same weekend.
Sustaining a citywide celebration for nearly three decades is a challenge. At the heart of the Celebration is a group of volunteers, a committee responsible for organizing the weekend’s activities. As the number of members in the Lions Club has dwindled in recent years, this task has proven to be a difficult one.
The success of the Festival of Trails Celebration the past 28 years can be traced back to the volunteers who have stepped up and made a commitment when it was needed most. This year, for example, volunteers helped coordinate and organize a public relations campaign to effectively promote the Celebration. And Friday night’s parade was bigger and better than ever, thanks to those who worked diligently on the project.
Planning for next year’s Celebration has already begun and you can help. How? Take a few minutes to complete the survey posted online at Your responses will be transmitted directly to Celebration organizers. As you look forward to the 29th Annual Festival of Trails in 2015, what are some of the ways you can contribute?