24th annual Running of the Boots raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka

It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and paint them up. The 24th annual Running of the Boots begins at 11:30 a.m. (registration opens at 10:30 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the big tent near Totem Square park on Lincoln Street. This year the costumed fun run fundraiser benefits two local nonprofit organizations — the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka.

This year, there will be more food, music and other tents staged near the start of the Running of the Boots, so it will have a more festive atmosphere. This change allows the race to be a bigger part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association. In addition to the Running of the Boots, the Season’s-End Celebration includes a lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for Sitka residents featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, and fish. People are asked to make a $2 donation when they get their lunch, and the money raised will go toward a local community group or nonprofit to be announced.

THIS JUST IN: Russell’s has donated 10 pairs of XtraTufs for door prizes at the Running of the Boots. Thanks, Russell’s.

“We’re happy to share this event with Youth Advocates of Sitka this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “The Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted this event for the past decade, but this year we weren’t sure if we had enough board members in town to keep the event going. It’s a great event, and I’m happy Youth Advocates of Sitka decided to partner with us to keep it around for a 24th year. We lost our co-sponsor from last year when the organization closed its Sitka office and we needed to find a partner to continue this event. We wanted to honor the kid-friendly aspect of the event, and Youth Advocates of Sitka serves that role, as well as operating a youth-run food business (the Smoothie Truck) during the summer.”

“Youth Advocates of Sitka is proud to be involved with the Sitka tradition, Running of the Boots,” Youth Advocates of Sitka executive director Charlie Woodcock said. “Our vision is to empower youth to grow into healthy, happy, and productive members of our community. What a wonderful opportunity for us to support our youth and community with a fun and original celebration!”

So what is the Running of the Boots? It’s Southeast Alaska’s answer to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls.” Sitkans wear zany costumes and XtraTufs — Southeast Alaska’s distinctive rubber boots (aka, Sitka Sneakers). For the past decade, the Running of the Boots raised funds for the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit organization that hosts the Sitka Farmers Market and advocates for community gardens, a community greenhouse, sustainable uses of traditional subsistence foods and education for Sitka gardeners. This year, it also will raise funds for Youth Advocates of Sitka, which provides a variety of mental and behavioral services for youth and their families in Sitka.

The Running of the Boots is a short race for fun and not for speed, even though one of the many prize categories is for the fastest boots. Other prize categories include best-dressed boots, zaniest costume, best couple, best kids group and more. The course starts at Totem Square park, and runners will run from one end of Lincoln Street to the other and back to Totem Square park (or, we may just run from Totem Square down Lincoln Street to St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, where runners will loop around the church and head back to Totem Square). There will be lots of prizes, including some new pairs of XtraTufs. There also is live music, and fun for the entire family. Some of the better costumes in recent years have been worn by adults.

The entry fee for the Running of the Boots is $10 per person and $30 per family, and people can register for the race starting at 10:30 a.m. Costume judging starts about 11 a.m., and runners hit the streets at 11:30 a.m. (NOTE: these times are a half-hour later than in recent years). As usual, local merchants have donated bushels of prizes for the costume contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a farm stand booth with fresh veggies for sale from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The booth takes debit cards, WIC vouchers and Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefit cards. The Smoothie Truck also will be at the event.

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Charlie Woodcock of Youth Advocates of Sitka at 747-2910 or by email at charlie.woodcock@sitkayouth.org, or contact Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com. We also need several volunteers to help set up and take down the race (at least two needed) and to judge the costumes (two needed). Contact Charlie Woodcock or Sydney Carter of YAS (747-2848 or sydney.carter@sitkayouth.org) to learn how to volunteer.

Historical information about the race (through 2005) can be found online at http://www.runningoftheboots.org/. Info about the Sitka Local Foods Network and more recent Running of the Boots events (2008-17) is online at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (type Running of the Boots into the search bar near the top of the page). Click this link to see a slideshow of scenes from the 2017 Running of the Boots.

Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and follow our Twitter page at https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods (@SitkaLocalFoods) to stay updated on Sitka Local Foods Network activities. The Youth Advocates of Sitka page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/sitkayouth.


Scenes from the 22nd annual Running of the Boots held on Sept. 17


Angie and Ryan Hutchins make for a jumbo-sized pair of XtraTufs as they run past St. Michael The Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral during the Running of the Boots on Sept. 17, 2016, in Sitka.

It was rainy in Sitka on Saturday, Sept. 17 (stop the presses), but the rain abated long enough for us to hold the 22nd annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network.

racestartThis year there was a new start-finish line and course, as our big tent was set up in Totem Square park and runners ran along Lincoln Street from Totem Square to the stoplight and back. We had a shark and fisherman, a jumbo-sized pair of XtraTufs, a young lad as Captain America, a young lady as Strawberry Shortcake, and more in the costume contest.

The Running of the Boots is an annual fundraising event for the Sitka Local Foods Network, whose mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. The Sitka Local Foods Network operates the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, the Sitka Farmers Market, and hosts an education program that includes the family garden mentoring project.

The Running of the Boots is part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association, where Sitka residents were served hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon and cole slaw to celebrate the end of the summer.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also hosted a produce booth at the Running of the Boots, with produce from the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. By the way, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt said we still have enough produce growing that she can sell 5-10 weekly boxes of produce through the next month. She said the boxes will run $30, and will likely contain about four pounds of carrots, two pounds of potatoes,  two pounds of beets, one bundle of chard, one head of lettuce, with other possibilities such as cucumbers, basil, a half-dozen eggs, etc. She also has an excess of zucchini. To learn more, contact Laura at ljschmidt835@hotmail.com.

A slideshow of scenes from the 22nd annual Running of the Boots is posted below. Click this link for a story on KCAW-Raven Radio about the event.

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Sitka uses walking tour to show off its gardens for International Master Garden Conference cruise


InternationalMasterGardenersConferenceLogoSome 1,100 participants in the 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference were in Sitka on Wednesday, Sept. 11, when the Holland America Lines cruise ship Westerdam docked in town.

As part of the visit, the Sitka District office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service prepared a walking tour for the conference participants to show off local gardens and other highlights. The walking tour was a unique opportunity to showcase the challenges and methods used to garden in Sitka as well as interact with Master Gardeners from various locales. In addition to visiting Sitka, the Sept. 7-14 cruise took the conference from Seattle to Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria (British Columbia) and back to Seattle.

The Sitka walking tour started at Harrigan Centennial Hall and included a stop to look at apple trees by KCAW-Raven Radio, a stop at the Sitka Pioneer Home to look at the roses and other gardens, a stop at the Russian Bishop’s House (where kindergarten students from nearby Baranof Elementary School plant vegetables in the spring and harvest them in the fall when they return as first-graders). From there the walking tour went to St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (where the Sitka Local Foods Network grows veggies to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets), then it was on to the Sheldon Jackson Museum and on to Sitka National Historical Park. The final two stops were at a garden on the Sheldon Jackson Campus (between the Yaw Art Center and Hames Athletic and Wellness Center), and on to the US Geological Survey Geomagnetic Station and UAF Cooperative Extension Service demonstration plots (at the site of the original USDA Sitka Experimental Farm (Page 7), which was the first in Alaska and had more than 100 acres of crops from 1898-1931).

Also at Harrigan Centennial Hall, Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein hosted a couple of showings of her movie “Eating Alaska,” which examines the food choices one makes, especially when they live in Alaska where produce can be marginal but fish and game are widely available.

UAFMasterGardenerProgramLogoThe Master Gardener (MG) program started in Seattle in the 1970s as a way to extend the horticulture resources of Washington State’s land grant university to the urban horticulture public in Seattle. The Master Gardeners receive 40 hours of training, similar to a basic three-credit-semester-hour, college-level horticulture class.

In return for this low-cost education the MG participants provide 40 hours of service to their community using Cooperative Extension information resources from their home states. The MG service may be in food gardening, pest management, youth gardening, tree and landscape care, public gardens, etc. Since the initial Seattle project, Master Gardener programs now exist in every state in the U.S., as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. A Master Gardener course was taught in Sitka in April at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

• Sitka garden walking tour map for 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference

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