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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sunday’s favorable forecast attracts fair-weather Bloomies

Some people decide to run Bloomsday months in advance. Others are fair-weather participants, who wait on the forecast.

Sunday’s prediction – a high near 79 degrees, with cloud cover and light winds – brought a surge of last-minute registrants to the Spokane Convention Center on Friday afternoon.

About 250 people funneled through the late registration area over the lunch hour, where a bank of 10 volunteers accepted $40 late entry fees and handed out race numbers. Another rush was expected from 4 to 6 p.m.

“Weather makes all the difference,” said Rand Palmer, the volunteer registrar. “People think, ‘Oh, it’s going to be nice, I’ll do it after all.’ ”

Elizabeth Wilson Fowler and her husband, Dale Fowler, found themselves in the late registration line.

“We didn’t get our act together,” Elizabeth said. “We’ve been so busy.”

Dale recently retired as harbor master across the state in Anacortes, and Elizabeth works at Eastern Washington University’s Spokane campus. The couple split their time between the two cities.

“I’ve been wanting Dale to join me,” said Elizabeth, a three-time Bloomsday participant. His retirement allows him to run the race this year.

“I think it’s such a wonderful experience,” she added. “I love the way our community comes out for Bloomsday, whether they’re walking, running or cheering people on.”

About 43,000 people are expected to participate in the 7.46-mile race this year. Getting race packets out to participants before the Sunday morning start is no small task.

Two shifts of 186 volunteers work the Convention Center on Friday and Saturday, checking people in and answering questions.

Common questions at the Bloomsday concierge desk involve backpacks and water bottles. For security reasons, backpacks and water bottles must be clear plastic. Parents of young children can bring a diaper bag if they’re walking in the stroller section.

Out-of-town participants can pick up their packets on Sunday morning. So, a small group of volunteers comes in at 6 a.m. on race day.

“We have wonderful volunteers,” said Diane Blashill, volunteer coordinator.

Del and Barbara Winnett, of Spokane Valley, are perennials – not participants, but volunteers. They’ve volunteered for every Bloomsday since 1977.

The couple are part of Community Radio Watch, a club that provides about 40 Bloomsday volunteers each year.

“I’m a hanger-on,” Del said. “There’s nothing better than Bloomsday.”

Four generations of the Okken-Brown-Velez clan strolled through the Bloomsday Trade Show and Expo.

The 81-year-old matriarch, Cleone Okken, will watch Bloomsday on TV while her daughters, a granddaughter and great-granddaughter participate.

“Women only this year,” joked Okken’s daughter, Susan Brown.

Brown, 61, is from Medical Lake. She’ll be walking with her 12-year-old granddaughter, Abigail Brown, who is participating in her first Bloomsday.

Brown’s sister, 51-year-old Michele Velez, is visiting from Vancleave, Mississippi, with her daughter, Alysha Velez, 30. It’s also Alysha’s first Bloomsday race.

The women were in a festive mood as they sampled free food and prepared to check out deals on sport-themed merchandise.

“I’m coming back to my hometown, where I grew up,” Michele Velez said.