Fun Run turns 20

CJ Warson · Tuesday, July 18, 2017
On Sunday morning, July 16, runners came out to warm up for the 20th Annual Youth Sports Fun Run down at the Muscatine County Fairgrounds.

The event included a 5K/Run and walk, the “One Mile Fun Run” for kids 12 and under and the 50 yard dash for athletes six and under.

“It would have been Lori Leggins and her husband twenty years ago that did it for the Youth Sports to help raise money,” said Gretchen Nollman. “It’s to pay for the equipment and the cost so that local kids could play sports.”

After starting the run two decades ago, the torch has been handed to Nollman, the new organizer for the West Liberty Sports Fun Run.

This year she wanted to try to make the run a little different and special. “We’re trying to make it a bigger deal this year because it is the 20th Anniversary,” Nollman said.

For instance, the Fun Run crew wanted to mix it up a bit from year’s past by changing the course, which traditionally has followed the fair parade route.

“We’re trying to bring back the older traditions that they had started out with,” Nollman said. “We’re having a ‘down and back’ race this year so that every runner gets to see each other, which has been changed the last couple of years, so we’re trying to bring it back.”

West Liberty Youth Sports, a non-profit organization, has only had one goal in the twenty years that it has been around, but it’s been a big one.

“It’s always been to raise money, because we’re a non-profit to help pay for equipment costs,” Nollman said.

The Fun Run supports all kinds of sports including baseball, softball, tee-ball, basketball, flag football. It also helps to support tackle football and volleyball for third to sixth grade.

“It’s usually for grades K-6th grade because their school has organized sports from 7th and 8th grade on up,” Nollman said.

However, one tradition that the Youth Sports Fun Run has stuck to is the date.

The run occurred before the annual Fair Parade and Picnic in the Park, two events organized by the West Liberty Chamber to help pick off the Muscatine County Fair.

“It’s always been kind of a tradition to help kick off the fair week,” Nollman said. “Especially this year with the whole theme, it’s kind of funny, “Run to Greatness” so it makes a big difference.”

Every year they seem to have a pretty good turnout, regardless of it being on a Sunday morning when some, if not most, people go to church.

Their numbers have been pretty good the last few years, having risen to around 200 participants.

This year the race was early enough so that people could still go to church if they wanted to, but also they could beat the heat and mugginess of July.

“[We start early] because July’s really hot to start with,” Nollman said. “A little bit with the church services, but a little bit so that we’re done and we can go to church or we can get ready for the parade.”

“The parade usually is on the same day in the afternoon as well,” she added. “That way we’re out of the fairgrounds area.”

Besides rating funds, the organization tries to make it worth-the-while for it’s runners. They have prizes for both the top males and females.

“We have a top overall first female and male that get 100 dollar rewards and then there’s different age group that get a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place medal,” Nollman said. “Then we give out Chamber Bucks to keep it local for the first place runner of that age group for men and women.”

The 5K (3.1 miles) wasn’t the only race that was going on Sunday morning. The organization also had a one mile fun run.

Top finishers of males and females won 25 dollar gift cards, which were sponsored by West Liberty State Bank.

For the smaller kids, West Liberty Youth Sports had a 50 yard dash. The male and female winners of that race won a day pool pass to the local pool.

“Usually they used to do medals for them, we came up with the idea of trying to come up with something that would be useful than the medals laying around town or just being in the trash or their parents returning them,” Nollman said.

To add to the kid’s prizes, kids 12-and-under got arm bands to the fair and the carnival.

By the end of the day every year, they try to reach somewhere around $6,000 to $6,500 as their goal. They also try to get some help from sponsors so they can do the event.

“We usually try to get $5,000 worth of sponsors to help cut the cost of our T-shirts,” Nollman said. “Then help to provide overall winner monies, the medals and the gift cards.”
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