14th annual Turkey Trot brings community together Thanksgiving morning By Jillian Chandler
“Why can’t Bonners Ferry have one?” thought Carolyn Birrell, after running several Atlanta Turkey Trots over the years. So, what did she do? In 2009, she orchestrated Bonners Ferry’s first Turkey Trot to the delight of 75 runners. She bought a frozen turkey for the prize drawing and four pumpkin pies to serve at the finish line.
“My Thanksgiving morning has started the same way since 2009. It's dark outside when my alarm goes off. And cold. I can totally understand the temptation to stay in bed,” she says. “But, when you pull into the parking lot and see all the cars streaming in, and then you see someone's kid running toward the food barrel to drop off their bag with a huge grin on their face, how can you not smile and be glad you're there?”
Planning begins at the beginning of October, when Carolyn applies for her city permit and arranges insurance coverage. She then begins contacting her volunteers to make sure they’re available. “I have one couple who hasn’t missed a year of volunteering! Many have been helping for years,” smiles Carolyn. Approximately a half-dozen people help with the event, from setup and hand-numbering to food bank collection and burn-barrel management. “I’ll never turn away help,” she adds.
Each year since the inaugural event, the number of runners has beat the previous year’s—even despite COVID. Last year’s Turkey Trot welcomed 267 participants, and Carolyn anticipates even more for 2022.
The 2022 Turkey Trot—the 14th annual—will take place on Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, November 24, at 9am, at the Boundary County Fairgrounds’ parking lot. “Participants can expect an upbeat morning filled with great music, shout-out trivia, smiling faces, and a general feeling throughout the crowd of genuine thanksgiving,” affirms Carolyn.
Having partnered with the Food Bank (which provides the Turkey Trot’s event insurance), runners are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item (or more!) to donate. “Just knowing that you're contributing to someone else's well-being by donating food and saying hello to people you might not have seen all year fills a person with light and happiness,” shares Carolyn.
She buys several frozen turkeys and gathers dozens of other prizes donated by local merchants for the pre-race Turkey Trivia, along with a huge stack of pumpkin pies to serve up at the finish line with whipped cream, and hot cocoa and coffee. They even have prizes for costumes!
Runners are advised to get there early, enjoy some heat from the burn barrel, get their hand numbered for the prize table, and play Turkey Trivia. Adam Reeves, Forerunner Entertainment, has been donating his time the last several years to provide the awesome music at the start/finish line of the event.
Each year, as she walks through the crowds and hears the laughter, Carolyn reminds herself to take a moment to enjoy the pure joy that she sees when looking up from serving pie and pouring cocoa.
Participants don’t have to be runners to enjoy a morning at the Turkey Trot. “Bring your dog! Walk with a friend! You'll be surprised by how many familiar faces you'll see—all with huge smiles on them—and giving thanks,” affirms Carolyn, adding, “If 2022 marks your first year at the Turkey Trot, I will make you a dollar bet that it won't be your last.” For those interested in volunteering, Carolyn welcomes you to give her a call at 208.290.7039.