Race picks up pace with new events, fest

Herald file photo

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — The Heartland Half Marathon and 5K will receive several alterations this summer.

Dubois County Tourism Department director and DC Multisport board member Kevin Manley and Heartland race director Kenny Hochgesang received approval — for both changes to the race itself and the addition of a new festival — from the Jasper Board of Public Works and Safety Tuesday morning.

The third annual half marathon will be Labor Day weekend, as usual, but this year’s event will be Saturday, Aug. 30 instead of Sunday; the previous two races were on Sunday mornings. Hochgesang said Wednesday the idea to change came from race participants.

“At the end of each race, they send out an email to the runners and just ask them for recommendations,” Hochgesang explained. “The biggest response we had was to switch from a Sunday to a Saturday. People want the chance to enjoy the rest of their weekend.”

Manley added this morning that the race planning committee researched other local long-distance races and found that Evansville moved its event to a Saturday last year, which resulted in increased attendance. Manley said the goal is to lure out-of-town racers to stick around town Sunday to visit local businesses and boost the economy.

Last year, 603 people participated in the half marathon and 5K races combined, with 340 of those coming from outside Dubois County. Many of them were from elsewhere in Indiana, but some racers also made the trip from Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and even Texas and Wisconsin.

Manley and Hochgesang also presented the board with ideas for two new ancillary races. The first will be a relay-style event for local companies. Representatives from participating companies can each run a leg of the half marathon, eventually totalling 13.1 miles. The other is for kids. Children can participate in the half marathon by running one mile during each of the 12 weeks leading up to the event, then run the last 1.1 mile leg of the actual race.

Manley said with the help of Hedinger Beverage of Jasper as a corporate sponsor, the time is now to add these amendments, which will diversify the pool of race participants.

“The first two years we had it, we kept it pretty well the same both years. We did that because we wanted to get a couple years of experience under our belt,” he said. “One of the things that DC Multisport wants to do is to promote health and wellness, not only in adults, but for the kids, too. We think getting the kids involved is going to be a positive thing.”

DC Multisport is an organization for connecting local residents with others who enjoy similar sporting activities.

Finally, the committee is in the process of planning and securing the proper permits for a new festival after the marathon. The Bud Light Country Music and Brew Fest will premiere in the Dave Buehler Plaza at the Riverwalk from 2:30 to 8 p.m. the day of the race. Runners will be admitted free by showing their race bib, but the fest will also be open to the general public for a $5 fee. The event will feature live music — from the Linda Smith Band of Birdseye, Jason Sturgeon Band of Petersburg and Nathan Osmond Band — food, beverages and a beer garden. Because planning is in the initial stages, specific food and drink vendors haven’t yet been identified. In case complications with the necessary alcohol permit arise, Manley said there are contingency plans to hold the festival elsewhere in town.

The after-party is another aspect which surveyed participants told the committee they wanted to experience.

“It just seemed like a good fit for our area,” race planning committee member Whitney Hall both Hall said of the fest. “There aren’t really a lot of country music events in our area, even though we’re so close to Nashville. We thought it would just be a nice way to accommodate our guests.”

Interested runners will be able to register for any of the races on or around March 1. Fliers will circulate around the community or participants can visit www.active.com to register.

Contact Claire Moorman at cmoorman@dcherald.com.

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