Ringing a cowbell and standing at the corner of Wingra Drive and South Mills Street, Brian Vanderbloemer shouted encouragement to the runners and walkers rounding the final bend of Thursday’s Turkey Trot.
“It’s the time of year when a lot of people come home,” said Vanderbloemer, a volunteer for the event that raises money for United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Dane County. “So this is a great event to do with your family. It’s another way to spend the holiday together.”
The 5K run/walk was one of a series of races in and around Madison on Thanksgiving Day — with at least three of them named Turkey Trot.
At the United Cerebral Palsy event, some Turkey Trotters wore colorful tutus, turkey hats and even matching M&M costumes as they traversed the course in the Vilas Park area.
In its second year, this Turkey Trot drew hundreds, including many families and friends that raced together.
Mary Hoffland, of Prairie du Chien, watched the participants from the sidewalk while keeping an eye out for her two daughters, granddaughter and family friend who were running. She said the wide variety of runners and walkers of all ages, especially the little kids, was “amazing” to her.
“This is such an inspiration,” she said. “It’s a great example of a lifetime activity that a family can do together.”
But even for volunteers like Vanderbloemer, the Turkey Trot was still a family affair. Vanderbloemer was volunteering with his wife, middle child, dad and father-in-law on behalf of United Cerebral Palsy.
“This is just one way for everyone, volunteers and racers, to give without writing a check,” he said.
Elsewhere in the Madison area, Festival Foods held its Thanksgiving Day run/walk — also called the Turkey Trot — on two courses Downtown and on the Near East Side, and the 13th annual Berbee Derby took place in Fitchburg.
The Berbee Derby was the first Thanksgiving Day run in Madison, its marketing manager Suzy Shain said. Since 2004, proceeds from the race have gone to the Technology Education Fund, which gives money to nonprofits with technology projects for youth and adults.
While Madison does have an older holiday race, Madison College’s 30-year-old run/walk called, yes, the Turkey Trot, that event takes place in early November, getting ahead of the Thanksgiving Day race crowd.
As the years passed, interest in the Berbee Derby grew, and Shain reported more than 6,000 participated in the event Thursday, even as more Thanksgiving run options are added in Madison.
Joining the holiday racing scene this year with a start and end point at Breese Stevens Field was the Festival Foods Turkey Trot, which featured a 5-mile run and 2-mile walk.
Festival Foods Director of Community Involvement Brian Stenzel said that the Onalaska- based grocery chain had been looking to do a Madison Turkey Trot since its store on East Washington Avenue opened in April.
“We like to do a Turkey Trot in just about every market we have a store,” Stenzel said. “These events are a great way to support local charities.”
Madison’s event is one of 10 Festival Foods Turkey Trots that occur on Thanksgiving across Wisconsin, all of which raise money for the local Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs, Stenzel said.
Stenzel said 550 to 600 people participated in Madison’s Festival Foods Turkey Trot Thursday morning. He added that the race is here to stay, especially because of the strong community interest in it during its first year.
“For us as a company, we always try to do our best to give back to the community in any way we can and have healthy, happy communities,” Stenzel said.
Yet another, smaller, neighbor- organized Turkey Trot has taken place every Thanksgiving since 2010 in Madison’s Far East Side Elvehjem neighborhood.
While all of these races benefit organizations in the community, Shain expressed concern that having too many races happening at once could be harmful, not just hurting the Berbee Derby, but the organizations benefiting from these events.
But, she added, because the new races have charity components, they all ultimately give back to the community through different avenues, which is what matters most.
And it’s what keeps her involved in the Berbee Derby every year.
“The combination of exercise and family coupled with community involvement over time is really what drives me each and every year to provide a better race,” Shain said.