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Organizers preview changes, charity partner ahead of 41st Bloomsday race

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 28, 2017, 10:32 p.m.

A year after Bloomsday celebrated its 40-year milestone, the popular event is bracing for a new development: For the first time in its history, the event’s post-race activities will not be held in Riverfront Park.

“We haven’t had all the activities we have now, but it has always been in the park,” said Don Kardong, the race’s founder and director.

Instead, when racers exit the 7 1/2-mile course May 7 and take a slight detour onto Main Street from the Monroe Street Bridge, then head left on Lincoln and back onto Spokane Falls Boulevard, they’re likely to see a large crowd of people squeezed onto Spokane’s streets – not sprawled out in the park, which is undergoing major redevelopment.

“That’s the plan right now,” Kardong said.

When voters approved the yearslong, $60 million improvements to the park, it meant many summer activities would have to find a new space. For Bloomsday, that means shoving tens of thousands of people onto Spokane Falls Boulevard and neighboring streets.

“I think it is going to be cramped,” Kardong admitted. “But, that’s the plan right now.”

He and board President Mark Starr announced the changes at a news conference Tuesday.

The officials also unveiled a new four-part poster series and this year’s official charity, World Relief Spokane. The charitable organization resettled nearly 600 refugees in the Spokane area last year.

Johnna Nickoloff, World Relief Spokane’s development director, said the timing couldn’t be better for the organization. When President Donald Trump’s executive order was signed in January, it effectively halted all refugee admissions to the United States – and thus Spokane as well – which led to several layoffs and the closure of some of the organization’s offices.

And while courts blocked the order in February, and refugees are again beginning to resettle in the area, Nickoloff said rumblings of another executive order barring refugees’ entry into the country have made the office nervous.

“If there are 60,000 people who run, and an average person donates $1, that would make a huge difference,” Nickoloff said.

Kardong said just over 7,000 people have signed up since registration opened Jan. 1 – a bit under the pace this time last year.

Organizers, however, are hoping those numbers will surge as the day of the race draws closer, and are confident that “streets will be clear of snow and ice by the time the 41st edition of Spokane’s big run gets underway,” according to a recent news release.

“We’re a little tongue-in-cheek predicting it will be nice weather, or at least it won’t be snow,” Kardong admitted. “We really don’t know. None of us trust the long-term prediction.”

Starr and Kardong revealed a poster featuring the word “Blo” – the first in a series that eventually “will spell out Bloomsday in big letters there,” Kardong said.

“We think this captures very nicely the mass participation of Bloomsday,” he added. “We also like that all the people on the poster seem to be smiling.”

They acknowledged people might be confused. Each year, for the next three years, another poster will be introduced, until the four-part series is complete.

Also different this year is the race’s plan to open the Washington Street Bridge to foot traffic from about 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Previously, people would access viewing areas by taking the Howard Street Bridge, but because it is being torn up and many parts of the park are off-limits, foot traffic had to be diverted, the officials said.

Starr said traffic will be detoured to the Division Street and Maple Street bridges.

The Bloomsday app for phones, first unveiled last year, also is receiving a big change. This year, people will be able to track runners as they make their way through the course.

“So later on you can’t lie to them and say how fast your ran, because they’re tracking you the whole time,” Kardong said.

But perhaps the most significant change for runners? The infamous Doomsday Hill is new and improved.

“They actually narrowed the street but added a wide trail, a paved trail,” Kardong said. “The roadway is only two lanes but it used to be wider than that. But it should be fine for us.”


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