It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and paint them up. The 25th annual Running of the Boots begins at 11:30 a.m. (registration opens at 10:30 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the big tent near Totem Square park on Lincoln Street. For the second straight year, the costumed fun run fundraiser benefits two local nonprofit organizations — the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka. (Update: Russell’s Sporting Goods has donated 10 pairs of XtraTufs for door prizes at this event.)
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 and hot dogs. People are asked to make a $2 donation when they get their lunch, and the money raised will go toward the Sitka’s Cloud teen center project from the 2018 Sitka Health Summit that is being coordinated by Youth Advocates of Sitka.
“We’re happy to share this event with Youth Advocates of Sitka again this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “The Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted this event for more than a decade, but the last couple of years we weren’t sure if we had enough board members in town to keep the event going. We needed some help. It’s a great event, and I’m happy Youth Advocates of Sitka decided to partner with us again to keep it around for a 25th year. 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. The event 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, including the Sitka Cloud teen center that recently opened on Harbor Drive next to Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop.
The Running of the Boots is a short race built 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). Note, the course is blocked off, so no cars for the kids (and parents) to worry about.
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 tentative and may be changed).
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 Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 623-7660 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Charlie Woodcock of Youth Advocates of Sitka at 747-2910 or by email at email@example.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 Charles Bingham, Charlie Woodcock or Sydney Carter of YAS (747-2848 or firstname.lastname@example.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 (2008-18) 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 2018 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.