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New Thanksgiving weekend 5K race in Cottage Grove ruffles feathers in local Hale to the Bird event

Hale to the Bird runners compete in the 2016 race near Hamlet Park. The Thanksgiving morning 5K returns to Cottage Grove Thursday, Nov. 23. It will be followed by a new 5K race on Saturday, Nov. 25, called the Turkey Trot, at Kingston Park. RiverTown Multimedia file photo

The organizers of a local 5K are not thankful another race has been scheduled in Cottage Grove two days after their Turkey Day event.

Since 2010, the annual Hale to the Bird 5K run/walk on Thanksgiving morning has drawn local runners and walkers to the 3.1-mile course that begins and ends in Hamlet Park.

Over 550 participated in last year's pre-gobble gallop, which raised $6,000 for the Friends in Need Food Shelf.

This year, however, race organizers have competition: The Cottage Grove Turkey Trot 5K debuts two days later in Kingston Park.

The new race is organized by All Community Events, who also put on races in Wisconsin, Iowa and their home state of Illinois.

"It's a little shocking and disappointing to think a for-profit business that's based out of state would come in and take money from the food shelf," Hale to the Bird co-organizer Adam Elling said. "I don't think they have any investment in the community of Cottage Grove itself."

But Peter Starykowicz, who co-owns All Community Events, said he wasn't aware of any race that was scheduled in Cottage Grove around that time. He said they have an 11-year track record, including the running of Turkey Trots in Chanhassen and Rochester, the Glo Run in the Twin Cities, the Hot Cider Hustle in Bloomington and Mother's Day 5K, which was formerly held in Woodbury.

"If we organize a race that's in the same location as the other race, their numbers typically go up because of our race," Starykowicz said. "When we start advertising, more people become interested in races in general. I can't guarantee it, but their numbers, watch them after this year."

Elling founded Hale to the Bird with his brother Matt and friend Tim Maurer after they became fed up with the crowds and parking hassles at big Twin Cities Turkey Trots. He said they don't have the budget to pay for, say, a commemorative fleece hoodie, which is what the nearly 700 runners who have registered for Cottage Grove Turkey Trot will get.

"We're local, we've been here and we're staying here," Elling said. "We keep the money local."

Starykowicz said they partner with a local charity at each race location. In Cottage Grove, he said they are working with House of Charity, a Minneapolis nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless, he said.

Since running went mainstream, more for-profit organizers are vying for the consumer dollar. The Rock n' Roll Marathon Series, run by sports and management marketing company the Competitor Group, claims to have 500,000 participants worldwide. Local race organizers often suffer. Some, like the Color Run, are unabashed novelty races, which can rankle serious runners.

"In all types of industries there's not just one person who makes a product," Starykowicz said. "That's like a monopoly. People choose what they like the best. If people want to participate in (Hale to the Bird), I encourage them to go participate in that race."

Mary Anderson, whose Anderson Race Management has helped organize races for 20 years in the Twin Cities, is working with both Hale to the Bird and the Turkey Trot.

She said she hopes the newcomer, with their bigger promotional budget, will generate more interest in Cottage Grove as a running community.

"Hopefully they're bringing a lot of runners to the market that maybe wouldn't participate," she said. "The bad part is that if there's already a local event, they take a bite out of whatever's going on.

"There's only one pie."

If you go:

Hale to the Bird 5K run, a Thanksgiving morning benefit for Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park, is set for at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, at Hamlet Park, 8883 Hamlet Road, Cottage Grove. Registration opens at 8 a.m. To register online, visit www.active.com and search for "Hale to the Bird." Fees range from $10 to $30.

The Turkey Trot, a first-year race in Cottage Grove organized by All Community Events, starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, at Kingston Park, 9195 75th St. Registration opens at 7:15 a.m. The kids dash begins at 8:15 a.m. To register, visit mnruns.com/cottagegroveturkeytrot Fees range from $35 to $50.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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