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Mayoral pardon, record attendance at Hale to the Bird 5K in Cottage Grove

Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey pardoned the Hale to the Bird 5K mascot, Fatty Bird, Thursday during the event. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)1 / 7
Nearly 500 people registered Thursday for the 4th annual Hale to the Bird 5K at Hamlet Park in Cottage Grove. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)2 / 7
Fatty Bird is a free man after Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey, with the help of police officer Dan Schoen, pardoned the Hale to the Bird 5K mascot Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)3 / 7
Cousins Katie Rausch, left, of St. Paul, and Kelli Johnson, of Minneapolis, got into the holiday spirit at the Hale to the Bird 5K at Hamlet Park. Johnson said she has participated in each race since its inception. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)4 / 7
Low temps didn't stop runners from coming out by the hundreds Thursday to participate in the 4th annual Hale to the Bird 5K in Hamlet Park. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)5 / 7
And they're off. At the crack of the race gun, runners, joggers and walkers warmed up with a 3-mile race during the Hale to the Bird 5K at Hamlet Park. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)6 / 7
With nearly 500 participants, the Hale to the Bird 5K set a new attendance record Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)7 / 7

A new local record was set Thursday as nearly 500 runners, joggers and walkers braved low temps to burn off a few pre-Thanksgiving dinner calories in the 4th annual Hale to the Bird 5K at Hamlet Park. 

Participants bundled up in layers and festive holiday costumes and brought items to be donated to the Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park. The race was started after three local men, frustrated with the hassle of the Minneapolis Thanksgiving Day 5K, wanted a holiday run closer to home.

"It was too much work getting downtown and parking and you'd have to show up really early," event organizer Adam Elling said. "So we thought we'd start our own 5K."

And that's exactly what he, his brother Matt Elling and their friend Tim Maurer did.

The first year the event garnered about 80 runners and raked in $500 for the food shelf. But it has since grown exponentially. Attempting to top last year's total of $4,000 in donations, the Ellings said they are grateful for the support.

"It's surreal," Adam said about the event's exposure. "It's really flattering and exciting that so many people want to support this."

"(The food shelf is) a charity that our mom supports and it was the most local charity that we know of," Matt said. "We know that our donations will stay local."

As part of the festivities, Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey took a page from the presidential handbook and pardoned the event's mascot, Fatty Bird.

"I hereby declare that Fatty Bird is pardoned for life," Bailey said to a cheering crowd and exuberant Fatty Bird.

At the crack of the race gun, runners set off on the 3.1-mile route from Hamlet Park, around the bike trail that runs along Hadley Avenue and back.

"We saw a need for an event like this in Cottage Grove and here we are four years later," Adam said. 

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