Scenes from the 24th annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser

It was cloudy in Sitka on Saturday, Sept. 22 (stop the presses), but the rain held off and didn’t dampen the fun during the 24th annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka.

Runners and others met under a large tent in Totem Square park, where we also had a small farm stand with fresh, local veggies from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, music from the Sitka Blues Band, a table with info about Youth Advocates of Sitka, and more.

In recent years, the Running of the Boots has been an annual fundraising event for the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. The Sitka Local Foods Network operates the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, the Sitka Farmers Market, and hosts an education program that includes the family garden mentoring project.

This year, Youth Advocates of Sitka helped co-host the event. Youth Advocates of Sitka is an organization that provides mental and behavioral health services for youth, and it also runs a youth-run food-based business (the Smoothie Truck) during the summer.

The Running of the Boots is part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association, where Sitka residents were served hamburgers and hot dogs to celebrate the end of the summer.

A slideshow of scenes from the 24th annual Running of the Boots is posted below.

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24th annual Running of the Boots raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka

It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and paint them up. The 24th annual Running of the Boots begins at 11:30 a.m. (registration opens at 10:30 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 22, 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 Youth Advocates of Sitka.

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 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 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.

THIS JUST IN: Russell’s has donated 10 pairs of XtraTufs for door prizes at the Running of the Boots. Thanks, Russell’s.

“We’re happy to share this event with Youth Advocates of Sitka this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “The Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted this event for 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 Youth Advocates of Sitka decided to partner with us to keep it around for a 24th year. We lost our co-sponsor from last year when the organization closed its Sitka office and we needed to find a partner to continue this event. We wanted to honor the kid-friendly aspect of the event, and Youth Advocates of Sitka serves that role, as well as operating a youth-run food business (the Smoothie Truck) during the summer.”

“Youth Advocates of Sitka is proud to be involved with the Sitka tradition, Running of the Boots,” Youth Advocates of Sitka executive director Charlie Woodcock said. “Our vision is to empower youth to grow into healthy, happy, and productive members of our community. What a wonderful opportunity for us to support our youth and community with a fun and original celebration!”

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 Youth Advocates of Sitka, which provides a variety of mental and behavioral services for youth and their families in Sitka.

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. The Smoothie Truck also will be at the event.

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Charlie Woodcock of Youth Advocates of Sitka at 747-2910 or by email at charlie.woodcock@sitkayouth.org, or contact 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 (at least two needed) and to judge the costumes (two needed). Contact Charlie Woodcock or Sydney Carter of YAS (747-2848 or sydney.carter@sitkayouth.org) 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 (2008-17) is online at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (type Running of the Boots into the search bar near the top of the page). Click this link to see a slideshow of scenes from the 2017 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 Youth Advocates of Sitka page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/sitkayouth.