By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — Thanksgiving is a tradition that normally involves family and eating.
A few hundred that found themselves in Benton Harbor on Thursday morning threw in a twist to that tradition. Nearly 400 people from across the country and state ran and walked in the second annual Twin Cities Turkey Trot, which began just outside of Dwight P. Mitchell City Center Park.
Among the few who withstood the sobering temperatures were two who were more accustomed to the south.
Alia Adams and Andy Wildman are from Tennessee, but spent the holiday in South Haven to visit with family from Grand Rapids.
The two recently got engaged and chose to celebrate with a run. Wildman and his father actually took on the first Turkey Trot held in Benton Harbor last year. Adams said this was only her second 5K.
“We’re not from Michigan originally,” Wildman said. “I’ve never lived anywhere this cold. I like running and felt this was a good way to get ready for all the calories we’re going to eat later.”
Marianne Groth, president of the SWMI RACERS, organized the 5K and 10K races around several Benton Harbor parks and monuments.
For the second time around, Groth said they were able to get the city to close the route to traffic. The event’s organizers released a survey after last year’s race and found the traffic to be a recurring concern.
This involved changing some of the routes so the city wouldn’t have to close as many streets.
“There’s more room for the runners to go,” Groth said. “On the 10K, we changed it to remove any trail running.”
With more participating in the run this year, Groth said there were more zip codes represented as families from all over the country were in town for Thanksgiving.
Runners came from as far as Alabama and Virginia. Registration was inside the Benton Harbor Public Library.
A few family members from North Carolina came up for the weekend and coordinated with others to wear turkey hats. Some had feathers, while others had drumsticks atop their heads.
Supporting the parks
Turkey Trots have picked up in popularity over the years as a way to exercise together on a day that is predominantly known for eating. Some have taken it a step further by dressing in goofy outfits and costumes for the race.
“The weather is different for people traveling. It can be a big difference,” Groth said. “We had a race like this in Niles, but this one gives people in the St. Joe-Benton Harbor area an opportunity for a closer race.”
Benton Harbor resident Jen Van Beek wore a turkey hat Thursday alongside her family, which included younger participants in strollers.
“I like supporting the parks district, so when the race moved here it was perfect,” Van Beek said.
Groth directs races for a lot of events, which is where she came up with the idea for a Turkey Trot last year.
The race began when the previous president of the Benton Harbor Parks and Recreation Conservancy was looking for a charitable event that would not only raise money, but introduce people to the parks in the area.
Funding raised from the race will go to programming and equipment for the parks as AEP was the title sponsor once more for the Turkey Trot.
“I’m really hoping we get to 500 participants next year,” Groth said. “We got started a little later this year with the change in leadership at the parks conservancy. So, hopefully next year there will be an even bigger outreach.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 25, 2016)