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Trotting is popular here

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Deb Rogers knitted a dozen brightly colored turkey hats for her family to don Thursday morning when the crew gathered in Fredericksburg to participate in the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot races.

The grandchildren—ages 3 to 9—took part in the 1-mile and half-mile runs, and then most of the adults participated in the 5K.

It’s part of a family tradition involving grandmothers, cousins and grandchildren who come from Spotsylvania and King George counties.

They get up early to run, then head home for showers and then convene again at Rogers’ King George home for the Thanksgiving feast.

Then comes the finale.

“After dinner, we get out the newspaper, spread it out and plan,” said Dawn Morgan of Lake Anna. “We’re big Black Friday shoppers.”

About 3,700 people registered for the YMCA races that started and finished at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center in Celebrate Virginia South.

The hats Rogers made came in handy on a morning that saw temperatures in the low 20s when the children’s races started.

Children ran in seven heats that started at 7 a.m. The 5K Turkey Trot started at 9:05 a.m.

As the majority of the 5K runners started trickling in at about 8:15 a.m., temperatures had nudged up only slightly, into the mid-20s.

By the time that race and one being held downtown started shortly after 9 a.m., the mercury had risen to the upper 20s, but bright sun shine and lack of wind helped make it bearable.

Some hearty runners even opted for shorts.

The holiday atmosphere permeated the races with people decked out in various styles of headwear and a few costumes. Turkeys made for festive chapeaus, of course, but there were also lions, snowmen and plenty of multicolored knit caps covering children’s ears.

Some runners covered themselves in costumes. One came as Gumby, another as Batman. Some volunteers were dressed as turkeys.

The “Turkey Not” event held in downtown brought out about 160 people, as expected.

That race, organized by downtown resident Rabah Sbitani via Facebook, was referred to as the rogue race last year.

However, after city officials required Sbitani to get a permit for this year’s event, it was reined in.

The course stayed primarily off downtown roads. When it briefly stopped traffic—as it did when participants departed the steps of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library and crossed Caroline Street onto Lewis—drivers honked and cheered.

This year’s route took runners, walkers, strollers and dogs up Lewis Street to Washington Avenue and then onto the Canal Path, onto the Heritage Trail and then back onto sidewalks along Caroline Street, ending at the library.

Marshals were out along the route anywhere that runners crossed a roadway.

Rene Rodriguez was outside his home on Prince Edward Street during the Turkey Not event and said he supported it.

“I’m definitely supportive of bringing anything downtown,” Rodriguez said. “I love showing off our city.”

The YMCA Turkey Trot was held downtown for 19 years, starting at the library all but the last two years.

It moved to the Central Park area of the city in 2012 because of its size.

City officials said the event had reached a point where it needed to move or be run in heats out of concern for safety.

“I ran this several times before, and I won’t do it in Central Park,” said Spotsylvania resident Tammie Mikulas, who took part in the downtown event.

She was pleased to see so many people show up.

Randy Smith of Stafford County and his adult son, Sean Smith, ran the down town event to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their first Turkey Trot.

“I like running in downtown Fredericksburg,” said Smith, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel. “There’s nothing about the other side of town that appeals to me.”

After the run, he gave Sbitani some cash to help him cover the cost of insuring the event, one of the city’s requirements to allow it to be held.

Sbitani told him the cost had been covered but said he would give the money to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, which the event supported.

Stafford High School’s field hockey players volunteered their time to help at the YMCA event, including serving postrace refreshments that included water, Gatorade, bananas and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The downtown race offered no awards, no refreshments and no official times, but there were cheers and the music of a ukulele as people finished.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972