To many families around the country, Thanksgiving is the start to a month-long holiday season of travel, traditions, and food. My family is from the Fox Cities in east central Wisconsin – a great area to spend this time of year. Downtown for the Holidays brings Santa, carolers, window displays and holiday deals to Appleton’s College Avenue, and not long after that, we host the largest night Christmas parade in the Midwest, the Appleton Downtown Christmas Parade. In Oshkosh, the Celebration of Lights turns Menominee Park on Lake Winnebago into a real winter wonderland, full of lights and music. At Nutcracker in the Castle decorations, actors, and ballet dancers transform Paine Art Center into a living storybook of the Nutcracker.
Every Thanksgiving, our Fox Cities family kicks off the season by renting a park pavilion in Neenah for a giant potluck. In addition to providing food, everyone brings plastic containers to take home gluttonous amounts of leftovers. Some of us, attempting to lessen our guilt about overeating, have adopted a new tradition for our Thanksgiving Day celebration by participating in the Festival Foods Turkey Trot. While those who enjoy cooking are preparing for the potluck, others head to the Turkey Trot for a 5-mile run (or 2-mile walk).
The event raises money for the local YMCA and Boys and Girls Club organizations, and encourages each community to be active during a season when staying inside and eating is far more tempting. One of the sponsors, Bellin Health, has even put together a training schedule to help you go from the couch to the race day.
The Turkey Trot began in 2008 in Appleton, Green Bay, and Oshkosh with 4,900 participants, and has rapidly grown to include five more Wisconsin cities (Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Manitowoc, and Marshfield). For the past few years, this event has boasted record-breaking attendances with over 30,000 participants around the state. We first learned of the race in 2009, the year my sister-in-law, nephew, and I braved rain and sleet to run the Appleton course.
My family and I alternate participating in the Oshkosh and Appleton races. Both locations have their attributes, in Oshkosh the course is flat and the crowds are a little smaller, while Appleton's is one of the largest of the 8 races and the course is scenic and hilly. No matter what venue, every participant receives an individual-sized pumpkin pie (with an option to donate it to a local food pantry). For those interested, Festival Foods sells a whimsical turkey hat. The race is not only good-spirited, but a fun alternative to simply eating our way through the season.
They even include a 2-mile dog jog, for those who don’t want Fido to miss out on the fun and fitness.
This Thanksgiving, I plan to once again jog through my morning (come snow or shine) to make room for more turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie!
In addition to the Festival Foods Turkey Trots held around the state, you can check out some of these other organized races on Thanksgiving day:
Burlington: Town Bank Turkey Trot
Fitchburg: Berbee Derby
Watertown: Run Turkey Run 5K
Wausau: Eastbay’s Turkey Trot
West Allis (at Miller Park): Drumstick Dash