• Running of the Boots on Saturday, Sept. 25, raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network

High school exchange students dressed as aliens won the best group costume category in the 2009 costume contest

High school exchange students dressed as aliens won the best group costume category in the 2009 costume contest

It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and paint them up. The 16th annual Running of the Boots takes place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the Crescent Harbor shelter.

The Running of the Boots is part of the thid annual Season’s End Celebration, an event sponsored by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Association that includes a free lunch for Sitka residents. The Chamber’s board donates money raised by the Running of the Boots to the Sitka Local Foods Network, the non-profit group that hosts the Sitka Farmers Market and advocates for community gardens, a community greenhouse, sustainable uses of traditional subsistence foods and education for Sitka gardeners.

The 2008 winner of the fastest boots award

The 2008 winner of the fastest boots award

So what is the Running of the Boots? It’s Southeast Alaska’s answer to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls.” But unlike the Pamplona spectacle, humans do the running in Sitka and they wear zany costumes and XtraTufs — Southeast Alaska’s distinctive rubber boots (aka, Sitka Sneakers). The entry fee for the Running of the Boots is $5 per person and $20 per family, and people can register for the race starting at 10 a.m. There is a lip synch contest after the race, which costs $10 to enter.

The Running of the Boots is a short race for fun and not for speed, even though one of the many prize categories is for the fastest boots. Categories include best dressed boots, zaniest costume, best couple, best kids group and many others. The course includes a loop around St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral before returning to Crescent Harbor for families with children, or a run from Crescent Harbor to the corner of Katlian and Lincoln streets and back for Sitka’s hardier souls.

“This event is the highlight of our Season’s End Celebration, after which Sitkans can partake of the Alaska Cruise Association’s free lunch,” said Sheila Finkenbinder, executive director of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce. Finkenbinder started the ‘run’ 16 years ago, inspired by an idea from KCAW-Raven Radio general manager Ken Fate.

“This is a really fun way to advance the Sitka Farmers Market and our other Sitka Local Foods Network projects,” Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane said. “And just like at the market, there will be live music by the Sitka Blues Band.”

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or by e-mail at maclanekerry@yahoo.com. Historical information about the race (through 2005) can be found online at http://www.runningoftheboots.org/. Info about the Sitka Local Foods Network and more recent Running of the Boots events (2008-09) is on this site (either click “Running of the Boots” under Categories in the right-hand column, or type “Running of the Boots” into the search engine at the very top of the page).

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