Mason City continues setting RAGBRAI entertainment bar high, with shows by Don Felder, Sugar Ray

·4 min read

MASON CITY — The River City set a high mark for itself when it last hosted RAGBRAI in 2014, booking Bret Michaels, the frontman of '80s top 40 hair metal rockers Poison to perform for the crowd. Thousands of people, RAGBRAI riders and otherwise, poured into the town for the free show.

This year, the Day 4 overnight town didn't manage to get Hugh Jackman to come perform a medley from the current Broadway revival of "The Music Man" by native son Meredith Willson. But it still reached high Wednesday night, when it presented a double bill of Don Felder, the former Eagles lead guitarist, and Sugar Ray, a pop rock group with a string of hits from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s.

Previously: Hugh Jackman tells Iowa men's basketball to 'crush it' ahead of the NCAA Tournament

Sugar Ray performs Wednesday, Day 4 of RAGBRAI, for a packed and enthusiastic crowd in Mason City.
Sugar Ray performs Wednesday, Day 4 of RAGBRAI, for a packed and enthusiastic crowd in Mason City.

Though the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa had put the riders through the wringer with its first full-course Century Day since 1985 — a 105-mile journey from Emmetsburg — those who were still on their feet packed a park in the heart of downtown for the show.

They stuck around even as a thunderstorm began to roll in around 8:30 p.m., when Sugar Ray was scheduled to perform. The show went on after a brief delay.

Felder, who took the stage first at 6:30 p.m., managed to get in his performance before the weather became threatening. A  member of the Eagles from 1974 to 2001, he was inducted with the group into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Don Felder, former Eagles lead guitarist, smiles while performing Wednesday during the fourth day of RAGBRAI at Mason City.
Don Felder, former Eagles lead guitarist, smiles while performing Wednesday during the fourth day of RAGBRAI at Mason City.

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Since his contentious parting with the band, he has performed both with his own ensemble and other groups, and was inducted into Nashville's Musicians Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2019 he released his latest solo album, "American Rock 'N' Roll."

Sugar Ray, fronted by Mark McGrath, is known for songs like "Every Morning," "Answer the Phone" and especially its first hit, 1997's "Fly."

For Jessica Medinger, 38, of Bellevue — a past RAGBRAI ending town on the Mississippi River — the chance to see the show was one of her reasons for becoming a first-time RAGBRAI rider. She plans to start from Mason City on Thursday and complete the remainder of the week.

An enthusiastic crowd surrounds the stage in downtown Mason City as former Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder performs during Day 4 of RAGBRAI on Wednesday.
An enthusiastic crowd surrounds the stage in downtown Mason City as former Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder performs during Day 4 of RAGBRAI on Wednesday.

She was camping with husband Chris, also 38, and both were awaiting the beginning of Felder's performance.

“I had my plan of what I was going to do this year for RAGBRAI … and when I saw these two acts were (performing) I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked,” she said. “It’s a good way to start our RAGBRAI adventure.”

Neither had seen Felder or Sugar Ray live before, and they were stoked by the opportunity.

"I’m a musician myself and I play a lot of Eagles songs, so for me that’s pretty exciting," said Chris Medinger. "But I grew up listening to Sugar Ray, as well. I have most of their albums.

“I know Mason City prides itself on being called the “Music City,” so it doesn’t surprise me that they’re bringing in bigger musical acts,” he said. “But this is awesome. And to have it be free to the public, it’s just great of the town.”

Sugar Ray performs in downtown Mason City on Wednesday, the fourth day of RAGBRAI.
Sugar Ray performs in downtown Mason City on Wednesday, the fourth day of RAGBRAI.

“I’m sure (it’s) getting people jazzed back up after 105-mile day today, too, for those that were riding already today,” his wife said.

The chance to see Felder was keeping Berry Schnoor, of Virginia, who rode Wednesday's route, up past his bedtime.

The three-time RAGBRAI rider says he's usually in bed by 8 p.m. during the ride.

“I’m an early riser. I want to be done with the ride by the heat of the day," he said. "I was up by 4:15 this morning.”

But he's also a big Eagles fan and was joined at the show Watching the show with a buddy who’s from Iowa.

“We don’t get to see each other very often and he came up to see this so we’re going to spend the evening together watching the show,” Schnoor said, adding, “It’s a celebration environment. Everyone is having a good time.”

Especially Sugar Ray. McGrath, the band leader, told the crowd he recognized that in 2022, Sugar Ray is '90s nostalgia. He called it "incredible" that they are still getting to perform, and praised the enthusiasm of the RAGBRAI crowd that seemed to know and love every song as the group played through its catalogue of hits.

Iowans, he said, "are salt of the earth people."

This article has been edited to correct the location of the show. 

Staff writer Isaac Hamlet contributed to this article.

Virginia Barreda is a trending and general assignment reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at vbarreda@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @vbarreda2. 

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Don Felder, Sugar Ray entertain RAGBRAI crowd in Mason City