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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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38,748 turn out for Bloomsday 2017

May 7, 2017 Updated Sun., May 7, 2017 at 10:06 p.m.

By Pia Hallenberg and Jonathan Glover The Spokesman-Review

The sun came out at exactly the right moment, with the main Bloomsday starting groups ready to go.

Out of 42,985 registered, 38,748 runners, walkers, chair rollers and strollers started and finished Sunday’s 7 1/2-mile Bloomsday race, according to race director Don Kardong.

As is tradition, many wore costumes. There were the usual friendly faces – ballet tutus, dinosaur suits and balloon hats – and then there was the devil.

Appropriately, his race number was 666.

“I do this in the St. Patrick’s Day dash in Seattle and they hold the number for me,” said Kevin McGinnis, the man behind the small horns and the red makeup.

Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review

When McGinnis picked up his Bloomsday bib, he saw his number was 663. He jokingly asked if 666 was available instead.

It was. As a matter of policy, it is not assigned to any one runner, since some would consider it bad luck.

McGinnis saw it as a chance to enhance his look.

“So I got it and now I will get it again next year,” he said.

The best part of dressing like the devil, said McGinnis, is all the jokes people crack around him as he runs.

“Are you a medic? Because I feel like hell,” McGinnis said. “Or people say: ‘I’m going to beat the devil – watch me.’”

McGinnis drove up from Arizona to do his 36th Bloomsday and said he had a great race.

“I am an elite runner,” McGinnis said, “but the costume is just for fun.”

When you get the race number 666, like Kevin McGinnis, what else are you going to do but dress up as the Devil. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
When you get the race number 666, like Kevin McGinnis, what else are you going to do but dress up as the Devil. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

No Riverfront Park access

For the first time in race history, Bloomies couldn’t funnel into Riverfront Park – which is in the midst of a massive renovation project – and find a cool patch of grassy shade to plop down on.

Instead, they had to either find a shadow from one of downtown’s buildings or face the heat and take refuge on the sidewalk, which many runners reluctantly did.

“What a bummer,” said Stan Powers, who, along with his friends, dressed up as a bandito for the race. “But we can have fun, regardless.”

Rather than the park, it was the two large parking lots sandwiched between Howard Street and Washington Street along Main Avenue where most of the after-race festivities took place.

People lined up to enjoy the many food options or strolled through the beer garden, where music pumped from large speakers and where Powers and friends settled down with cold Michelob Ultras in hand.

“It’d be nice if it could be in the grass instead of pavement,” said Powers’ running mate, Steve Heron, who wore a black wig to complete his bandito outfit.

Rob Murphy, along with his 14-year-old son, Josh, were stealing a moment of leisure on a sidewalk along Main Avenue after their second year running the course.

“It’s a bummer for sure,” Josh said of not being able to use the park.

“For short term, it’s a bummer,” his father echoed. “But I hope it’s something to look forward to when it’s complete.”

Volunteers pitch in

The starting areas were organized the same way as last year, with hundreds of volunteers sorting runners into their designated starting categories.

Sally Bailey and her husband, Chuck, who’s been managing the green starting area for 34 years, brought daughter Tammy Rigsby and a slew of other family members to help out.

“We are in charge of getting people into the right color for starting,” Sally Bailey said. “We check their bibs and make sure they are where they are supposed to be.”

Volunteers carried extra safety pins for runners’ bibs and answered myriad questions, but Sally Bailey said it was great fun.

The family of volunteers usually go out for breakfast after they are done and try to spot this year’s T-shirt.

Both gave a thumbs-up to this year’s green shirt.

Volunteer Samantha Sullivan calls out shirt sizes as she helps hand out the 2017 Bloomsday shirt to competitors on Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Volunteer Samantha Sullivan calls out shirt sizes as she helps hand out the 2017 Bloomsday shirt to competitors on Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Party in the neighborhood

Before runners glimpsed the coveted “Mile 1” marker, they passed through Spokane’s historic Browne’s Addition, where residents flocked to their porches and stoops, food and drink in hand as they cheered on the sea of people flooding their neighborhood.

“Free hugs,” a large white sign read, pointing down toward the outstretched hand of 3-year-old Bennett Jones.

“He talked about when he did it last year,” said his mother, Shair Jones. “He gets excited.”

Bennett, a natural, received high-five after high-five like clockwork.

That is, until someone came by and asked his mother if he could give the little boy a piece of candy. With a Werther’s Original caramel now firmly planted in his mouth, his high-fiving days were over – for now.

“Maybe he’ll run it one day,” his mother mused.

As is tradition, Doug and Patti Kearsley strung up the colorful row of shirts from Bloomsdays past on Sunday morning. This year marked about 32, of which runners took notice by cheering and shouting as they passed.

“Been doing this for 10 years,” Doug Kearsley said, standing in the lawn of his condominium. “’Cept one year, my wife was out of town and I didn’t have the energy. So many people asked, ‘Where’s the shirts?’”

He won’t make that mistake again, he said.

No major security incidents

Security for Sunday’s event was at a similar level as past races, said Brian Coddington, spokesman for the city. No major incidents or disruptions were reported, he said.

There were, however, 23 emergency medical calls related to the event. The most serious of these were a stroke and two cardiac arrests, according to Brian Schaeffer, interim fire chief with the Spokane Fire Department.

In both cases of cardiac arrest, the victims were resuscitated and are alive, he said. All three individuals are now in Spokane-area hospitals.

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