23rd annual Running of the Boots raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska

It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and paint them up. The 23rd annual Running of the Boots begins at 11:30 a.m. (registration opens at 10:30 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the big tent near Totem Square park on Lincoln Street. This year the costumed fun run fundraiser benefits two local nonprofit organizations — the Sitka Local Foods Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska.

This year, there will be more food, music and other tents staged near the start of the Running of the Boots, so it will have a more festive atmosphere. This change allows the race to be a bigger part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association. In addition to the Running of the Boots, the Season’s-End Celebration includes a lunch from noon to 2 p.m. for Sitka residents featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, and fish. People are asked to make a $2 donation when they get their lunch, and the money raised will go toward a local community group or nonprofit to be announced.

“We’re happy to share this event with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska this year,” said Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham, who also has been a Big Brother to a couple of Littles in Sitka. “The Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted this event for most of the past decade, but this year we weren’t sure if we had enough board members in town to keep the event going. It’s a great event, and I’m happy Big Brothers Big Sisters decided to partner with us to keep it going. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska is a great mentorship organization for youth in Sitka, so this will be a good activity for Bigs and their Littles.”

So what is the Running of the Boots? It’s Southeast Alaska’s answer to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls.” Sitkans wear zany costumes and XtraTufs — Southeast Alaska’s distinctive rubber boots (aka, Sitka Sneakers).  For the past decade, the Running of the Boots raised funds for the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit organization 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. This year, it also will raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, which helps mentor local youth.

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. Other prize categories include best-dressed boots, zaniest costume, best couple, best kids group and more. The course starts at Totem Square park, and runners will run from one end of Lincoln Street to the other and back to Totem Square park (or, we may just run from Totem Square down Lincoln Street to St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, where runners will loop around the church and head back to Totem Square). There will be lots of prizes, including some new pairs of XtraTufs. There also is live music, and fun for the entire family. Some of the better costumes in recent years have been worn by adults.

The entry fee for the Running of the Boots is $10 per person and $30 per family, and people can register for the race starting at 10:30 a.m. Costume judging starts about 11 a.m., and runners hit the streets at 11:30 a.m. (NOTE: these times are a half-hour later than in recent years). As usual, local merchants have donated bushels of prizes for the costume contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a farm stand booth with fresh veggies for sale from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The booth takes debit cards, WIC vouchers and Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefit cards.

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Kealoha Harmon of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska at 747-3500 or by email at kealoha.harmon@bbbsak.org, or Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com. We also need several volunteers to help set up and take down the race (two needed) and to judge the costumes (two needed). Contact Kealoha to learn how to volunteer.

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 (2008-16) is online at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (type Running of the Boots into the search bar at the top of the page). Click this link to see a slideshow of scenes from the 2016 Running of the Boots.

Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and follow our Twitter page at https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods (@SitkaLocalFoods) to stay updated on Sitka Local Foods Network activities. The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska page on Facebook for Sitka is https://www.facebook.com/bbbsaksitka.