Sometimes, when you are riffing on the radio strange things happen. In 1995 Ken was riffing on the theme of the end of the cruise ship season on Raven Radio. He was musing about how we could celebrate. He was inspired by the “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. He suggested the proper way for Sitka to celebrate the end of the tourist season was for everyone to run from Sheldon Jackson College to the place where the cruise ship passengers disembark wearing “Sitka Sneakers,” Xtra tuff boots, and ONLY Xtra Tuffs. Sheila heard him on the radio and decided to “make it so” but with one small change. Instead of running clad only in Xtra Tuffs, she decided it should be a costume run. And that’s what happened. This year we celebrated the 23rd annual “Running of the Boots.” Now it is a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and is twinned with the Chamber of Commerce’s “End of Celebration” which offers a ‘free lunch’ from tents along Lincoln Street, although they would prefer you make a donation to “Big Brothers – Big Sisters” to pay for the lunch.
Emily, Raven Radio’s reporter, taking pics for the webpage, commented: “This is Sooo Sitka.” And it is. Other places run bulls or reindeer but Sitka seems to have the lock on kids in costumes, along with a fair sampling of others, running in the rain. There are prizes for speed and creativity in costume design. We had some great ones, a wedding party, the Morton’s Salt girl, a running lighthouse with a bumper sticker “What Would Burgess Do” pasted across its back (Ask someone in Sitka to explain that). There were jellyfish, spruce trees, kayaks, devils, and a whole family running the yellow brick road in extra tuffs, including Toto. Yes, real Alaska dogs wear boots.
The event is now mildly famous. The cooking channel did a piece on it a few years ago and Xtra Tuff features the “Running” on its webpage. Lonely Planet, at least in one web edition, mentions it.
By 11:30 runners had lined up across Lincoln Street in front of City Hall. The costumes judged during a parade (no, a dance really) around Totem Square to the music of the Sitka Blues Band. At the 11:30 at, the drop of a boot, two things happened at the same time, the rain started in earnest and the runners were off in a blur (well, I say a blur because that’s the way it looks to my poor befuddled autofocus), taking advantage of the non-slip chevron tread on those neoprene boots.
For a closer look at the boots, click here.