MARNE – Marne-Gras is coming.

Marne-Gras is similar to Mardi-Gras, but instead of heading to New Orleans, the “holiday” is an unofficial part of RAGBRAI. Or at least, it has been since 2001. That year, Marne was originally part of the RAGBRAI route, but when a decision was made to take the town off the official route, many riders went there anyway.

Since then, many riders come back to the town, even when the official route is not close.

“As soon as the route comes out in January, I get one or two emails or phone calls ‘can we come back?’” said Barb Fischer, who was the Marne Mayor back in 2001.

She estimates on a “slow year,” they may get 300 people, and on “medium year,” they may get 1,000. She and other town officials expect this year to be big because Marne is now officially on the route, and she said she has already received word that several people want to stay overnight in Marne on Saturday, July 20.

Fischer said when people come, they usually go to the bar in town, play volleyball, get fire truck rides, listen to music or “they just hang out.” She said residents may provide things like food, porta potties or places to charge electronics, but otherwise, they entertain themselves, and visit friends they only see when riding on RAGBRAI. She also said some residents are known to sit outside and people watch the riders because of their colorful buses and costumes and music, to name a few.

Since Marne is officially on the route, there will be food and drinks provided by Zipp’s Pizzeria, Coffee Girl, Soul Shine Food Truck, the Masons and the Fire Department. There will also be yard games.

Fischer is looking forward to seeing the riders when they come into Marne.

“I’ve made a lot of really good friends (of the riders coming to town),” she said.