Inaugural Jingle Bell Run/Walk draws huge crowd

Kids, adults and elves dance on Bay Street before the start of the Jingle Bell Run/Walk in downtown Port Orchard. - Tim Kelly/Staff photo
Kids, adults and elves dance on Bay Street before the start of the Jingle Bell Run/Walk in downtown Port Orchard.
— image credit: Tim Kelly/Staff photo

A huge success.

That’s what organizer Sheila Cline calls the inaugural 5K Jingle Bell Run/Walk in Port Orchard.

And for those who saw the throngs of Santa hats, candy-cane stockings and elf costumes massed on Bay Street near City Hall before the race last Saturday, it might be hard to argue with her.

“Seeing everyone at the line was the point where I realized, ‘wow, there are a lot of people here,’” Cline said. “It was a great moment, standing there.”

Along with the 1,150 runners — three times more than originally expected — signed up before last weekend, Cline and other organizers dealt with a large number of individuals wanting to sign up on the day of the race. As many as 400 people tried to sign up Saturday, she said, making for a welcome though stressful addition to the field.

“By race time we still had people in line to register,” said Vanessa Follis, a Jingle Bell Run/Walk volunteer. “We had to tell them to run and register after the race.”

Registration fees for the 5K run/walk and team fundraising benefitted the Arthritis Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting the prevention, control and research for a cure of arthritis.

Though a final tally of donations won’t be available until later, Follis said 1,500 runners could have put the the total amount raised somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000.

Both the number of runners and the amount of money headed to the Arthritis Foundation far exceeded anything Cline imagined when she dreamt up the Jingle Bell Run/Walk almost two years ago.

“The event was originally planned for about 400 people,” she said. “In fact, I remember at one point saying that if we got 200 people signed up, I’d be happy.”

Things did not go off flawlessly for the event that preceded the annual Festival of Chimes & Lights downtown. Cline heard a few complaints that race identification numbers were hard to come by and lines were long once runners completed the race, all related to logistics problems posed by the number of people signing up on race day, she said.

“I think for next year, we’ll have more people ready to help at registration,” incoming City Council member Cindy Lucarelli said. She will be one of the council members in charge of organizing the Festival of Chimes and Lights next year.

Lucarelli and Cline both thought the route of the race was something that needed to be looked at for next year.

The Bay Street route, from City Hall to the Annapolis Dock and back, was only partially closed to traffic. Trying to share the course with cars made for a cramped running space in some areas, Cline said.

Lucarelli suggested that the route change next year because some parts of Bay Street near the foot ferry have a steep pitch, making running a tad difficult. She would like to see the runners moved to the center lane that has a more level surface, instead of one of the outside lanes.

But Lucarelli didn’t let something as minor as an uneven surface dampen her thoughts on the run/walk. The event, with the 1k kids run, the costume contest and the decent weather for a Washington December, was a special moment for the city.

“We were all in the street dancing for the warmup and it hit me what a special moment it was,” Lucarelli said.

Lucarelli said the event wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Cline and her fellow organizers. Getting 1,500 people to attend a charity run in a town the size of Port Orchard is “nothing short of spectacular,” she said.

“She sold it so well,” Lucarelli said of Cline.

Though the inaugural Jingle Bell Run/Walk has passed, Cline is still hard at work. She has sponsor thank-you letters to send out and event follow-up meetings with the city to attend. She’s also participating with her family in Seattle’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk this weekend, again in support of the Arthritis Foundation.

Not to mention, she’s already planning for next year.

“We’re already making lists of things to try out for next year,” she said.


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