The annual Rosy Cheeks 5K could be considered two events in one — a race, as its name implies, and also a kind of outdoor costume party, which collectively provide a unique Christmastime activity.
“There’s entertainment for all at the Rosy Cheeks, for the runners and spectators alike,” Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said Tuesday of the event that already has attracted record interest.
Now in its eighth year, the Rosy Cheeks 5K and Kids Jingle Bell Half-Mile Jog will be held Saturday morning at Riverside Park and the Ararat River Greenway. It is a community-outreach event that involves a toy drive by the Mount Airy Police Department, aided by personnel of the city Parks and Recreation Department, local churches and others.
The registration fee for runners is an unwrapped toy (appropriate for elementary or middle school ages) for the police drive.
“It’s just overwhelming the response we get every year,” added Watson.
The start time for Saturday’s 5K run is 9 a.m., with the Kids Jingle Bell Half-Mile Jog to begin at 9:45 a.m.
“A fun event”
Though the event draws many serious runners from around the region, the competitors have been known to dress as holiday characters for the occasion such as the Grinch, elves, snowmen and Cindy Lou Who, while some simply wear Santa hats. The only limitation is one’s imagination.
Non-runners also attend, some wearing Christmas get-ups and others just to see those and other sights of the Rosy Cheeks gathering.
“It’s an opportunity to wear costumes and just have a fun event,” the police chief said.
An award will be given for best holiday running outfit, with special prizes to go to first-, second- and third-place overall finishers and age group winners. The age divisions are 10 and under, 11-13, 14-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60 69 and 70-plus.
All finishers of the 5K will receive a candy cane, with kids to get a special reward for their run.
Nearly 500 runners were in the Rosy Cheeks 5K portion of the event along the Ararat River Greenway last year, which was believed to be an attendance record for the run. Officials already know that will be shattered this year.
“We have 580 participants pre-registered so far,” Assistant City Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis said Tuesday. “This the most we’ve ever had pre-registered.”
Runners can register up to the morning of the event, with more information available from Reeves Community Center at 336-786-8313.
The 5K route will begin at Riverside Park, enter the greenway, travel 1.5 miles and make a turnaround near the Rowe Park/ballfield area, then return to Riverside Park to the finish line.
Refreshments including baked goods and cider will be available after the race.
Santa Claus will be a special guest for the event.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.