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

Chilly weather, icy paths no match for thousands who turned out for Manito Park Turkey Trot

Runners burst from the starting line at the Bloomsday Road Runners Club Thanksgiving Turkey Trot Thursday at Manito Park in Spokane.  (Garrett Cabeza / The Spokesman-Review)

Bundled in beanies, turkey hats and even full turkey costumes, thousands of people started their Thanksgiving morning meandering through Spokane’s Manito Park for the annual Bloomsday Road Runners Club Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.

Besides burning calories before an afternoon feast, runners and walkers – some pushing strollers or walking dogs – were able to donate food and money to Second Harvest food bank.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to give and this is such a wonderful day to do it on Thanksgiving morning,” said Julie Chase, volunteer at Second Harvest. “And everybody will go home, take a nap and then eat turkey.”

Jackie Van Allen, race director, said around 5,000 people typically turn out to the park trot, but it was difficult to estimate figures Thursday. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to cancel in 2020 but it returned last year.

“We’re just happy that so many people showed up,” said Van Allen, noting the chilly conditions.

Participants ran and strolled at their own pace, but Van Allen said the full course is about 3 miles.

Compacted snow and ice on the park’s paths caused some people to slip. Some wore spikes on the bottom of their shoes for traction.

Pat Dempsey, who donned a turkey hat, said her sister-in-law slipped a couple times while walking.

“I just took it very carefully and made sure (I) got to the side of the road because it was pretty icy up there,” said Dempsey, a cross country coach at Bowdish Middle School in Spokane Valley and an 11-time marathon runner.

Dave Blythe, wearing a gray Seattle Mariners sweatshirt and orange Spokane Valley Running Club hat, chose spikes on his shoes.

Blythe, who ran with a friend, said he ran for the good cause and exercise, adding that the run would provide more room in his stomach for Thanksgiving food.

“I don’t run fast, but I run,” Blythe said.

Steven Van Horn, a National Weather Service Spokane meteorologist, prepared to walk with friends in a full Christmas Grinch-themed costume.

He wore a traditional red and white Santa Claus coat over his green, furry Grinch suit. He sported a Grinch mask and Santa hat as well.

“Maybe I will jog a little bit in the Grinch costume,” said Van Horn, who runs Bloomsday every year.

While most chose warm winter jackets, some runners braved the cold air in tank tops and shirts.

Chase, who wore a hat with two fake turkey legs jutting into the air, said the Turkey Trot is one of Second Harvest’s major food drives.

Since 1988, Turkey Trot participants donated 449,880 meals to Second Harvest, according to a sign at the park. Van Allen said the trot has raised over $100,000 since organizers started keeping track in 1996.

Chase said she was unsure how much food and money people donated Thursday.

She said about six large cardboard box totes were mostly filled with food toward the end of Thursday’s trot. Normally, eight totes are filled, she said. The food is distributed to food pantries across Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

“There’s just a lot of people that need the help,” Chase said.

She said Second Harvest usually racks up a couple thousand dollars from the event. That money is used to purchase food for those in need.

“It’s just heart warming to know that there’s so many great people here in Spokane that want to help however they can,” Chase said. “One can at a time, so it’s pretty amazing.”