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Turkey Trot could find its way back to downtown Fredericksburg

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File photo from last year's Turkey Trot.

File photo from last year’s Turkey Trot.

PHOTOS: View bonus pictures from last year’s Turkey Trot.

The YMCA Turkey Trot appears headed out of Central Park and back to the downtown area of Fredericksburg for this Thanksgiving.

The YMCA filed an application with the city on Friday, said Karen Hedelt, the city’s director of economic development and tourism.

She said discussions have been taking place over a period of months and she doesn’t anticipate any significant issues to arise as the application is formally reviewed by the city’s special events committee.

City departments including the police, public works, fire and rescue, and parks and recreation will be asked to provide their input on the application within two weeks.

The annual 5K race had been run in the downtown area of Fredericksburg for 19 years but moved to Central Park and Celebrate Virginia South in 2012.

City officials had become concerned about safety of runners because the event had grown so large.

In 2011, nearly 4,000 people participated and Hedelt heard concerns from runners who operate large events and with international experience.

As a result, the city said organizers needed to cap the number of participants, start the event in stages or find a different location.

That’s when the YMCA moved to the commercial area of Central Park and a course that could take up to 8,000 runners.

But numbers fell off there and a simultaneous downtown race spawned by a grass-roots effort took hold.

City resident Rabah Sbitani was the key player in organizing what in 2012 was called a “rogue” race.

The alternative race started in front of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library both years, keeping with the starting point the Turkey Trot had used its first 17 years. The last two years, it started in front of James Monroe High School.

Last year, city officials required Sbitani to get a permit and insurance for his alternative event.

But Hedelt said the city had already decided it wouldn’t support two Thanksgiving morning races this year.

“It’s an issue of resources,” she said. Finding enough people to handle police and emergency medical services at two sites on a holiday morning is a challenge.

Terry McLaughlin, the YMCA’s race organizer, said he hopes to meet with city officials and school personnel this week to continue working out details.

If approved, the event would include seven heats for children 12 and under. The heats would start at 7 a.m. with older children taking part in a 1-mile run and the youngest children running half of a mile.

The 5K would begin at 9:05 a.m. and be limited to about 4,000 runners this year, McLaughlin said.

The course is still being designed but would cover two-lane streets in the city. The only street McLaughlin anticipates closing to on-street parking during race time is a portion of Sunken Road.

Sbitani called it “great news” that the Turkey Trot could be returning to downtown.

He had continued his family’s tradition of a downtown run on Thanksgiving morning because that’s what it was about for him.

He said he would participate in the YMCA race if it returns and would have no reason for an alternative event.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

 

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