Jul 3, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterWhen the sun rises Wednesday and we remember that our great nation is 236 years old, what has become one of our county's staple Independence Day traditions, the Lander Half Marathon, will be getting ready to start for the 33rd time.
While its first race in 1980 had 35 runners - 34 male and 1 female - Wednesday's race will have nearly 500 participants.
Best of all, the Lander Half Marathon is now a Challenge For Charities event organized by the Lander Community Foundation which gave $150,000 back to the Lander community in 2011, Michelle Escudero, Foundation vice-chair, said.
That is no small sum.
"We also have a 5K recreational as well as competitive run. People can decide at the last minute. We take race day registrations. It is a fun way to get out before the July 4th parade. We get participants from all over. We're known as the place to go for July 4th. This will be a record-breaker year," Escudero said.
There are some new additions to the race event this year. Along with the half-marathon and 5k walk run, there will also be a youth jump rope olympics event for kids ages 5-10. Registration for the jump rope event is $5 and begins at 8 a.m.
The Lander Kiwanis is hosting a $5 for adults and $3 for youth pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. before the parade.
"The proceeds for all of these events go to the Challenge for Charities matching grant. The Challenge for Charities is a fundraiser that the Lander Community Foundation is hosting. There are 27 nonprofits participating in the event. They are raising funds, and the Community Foundation is giving a match to every dollar they raise (for local programming)," Escudero said.
The group is hoping to better the $150,000 outlay this year.
"It is a wonderful way to start your holiday day. We have a beautiful route that gets you away from traffic, and we have some beautiful scenery. That is part of the pull. People like to do something fun and family or friend oriented before the July 4th parade," Escudero said.
The race committee this year, all volunteers, consists of Lisa Lowham, the equivalent of the race director according to Escudero, Michelle, Shannon Rochelle, Cindy Carey, Gina Colovich and Jennifer Barrett. With the help of many volunteers, they organize a fantastic event.
Many, many of my family's July 4th holidays have been spent in Lander. For years, my parents would have breakfast waiting for us and the grandchildren on the banks of the Popo Agie near Lander's City Park prior to the parade.
I really miss that Independence Day family tradition.
We've watched the fireworks on the 3rd with friends out at the Dr. Bills property and from our Lander Pioneer Days Rodeo bleacher seats on the 4th.
And, if you spent anytime at all in Lander on Independence Day with family or friends, you know that the experience there is unmatched.
With the concern about fireworks in full force this year, things will be a bit different all throughout Fremont County.
But one thing is certain, with the Half Marathon and many other events scheduled, Lander remains the place to be on the Fourth of July.
Wake up early, meet your family and friends, take advantage of the same day race registration for the Lander Half Marathon and 5K, and enjoy the day. If you haven't already, consider making it a family tradition.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!
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