Time to dust off the turkey hats, feather skirts and fall-themed dog costumes.
Festive, even silly, attire is encouraged at the 29th annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5K run or walk, which starts at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The event has been a holiday mainstay for nearly three decades — even going virtual during the pandemic — and returned to in-person in 2022.
“One thing that surprised us about last year in our post-race surveys was the number of first-time Turkey Trot participants. It was much higher than it had ever been,” said Jenny Fillmer Edwards, public information administrator with the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. “We got great feedback and folks loved it but so many more people say it was their first one.”
That means many families came back while others “started a new tradition” in 2022, Edwards said.
“A year ago, we were all coming out of a feeling of being cooped up, a little cabin fever and a pent-up demand for in-person events,” she said. “Folks wanted to try something new, maybe something they’d heard about before but never done.”
As of Friday, registration for the race — which will continue through Thursday morning — was trending 15% higher than a year ago.
“It is on Thanksgiving and it’s an unusual holiday because families are together or friends are together and there is no other agenda except to eat,” Edwards said. “It is something all generations can do together. They can leave the house and have an experience away from the dinner table.”
She said by running or walking the 5K, participants are “earning their Thanksgiving calories.”
“We are all hopefully going to eat a big meal and you feel a little bit less guilty that day about a second helping if you’ve done a 5K that morning,” she said.
Edwards said the turkey hats and other costumes “emerged organically” over the years and, in recent years, awards have been given for the top costume, group or dog. “We do those awards via Facebook on social media so people can actually vote for the ones they think are the best.”
Sign up and packet pickup continues this week — even early on Thanksgiving morning inside the Springfield Expo Center, 635 E. St Louis St. The race T-shirts are printed on-site.
The cost is $35 for adults and $30 for kids age 12 and younger.
The event happens, rain or shine, with thousands showing up each year. The highest turnout, roughly a decade ago, was 9,000.
Each year, the event generates between $40,000 and $60,000 and that amount is split between the Developmental Center of the Ozarks and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board Youth Recreation Scholarship Fund.
Participants are also asked to bring five food items to donate to the Ozarks Food Harvest.
The starting line is in front of Hammons Tower on East St. Louis and John Q. Hammons Parkway. It will follow the same path as recent years.
The route is east on St. Louis Street, south on National Avenue, through Missouri State University and the downtown Springfield area, and finishes at Kimbrough Avenue in front of the Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque.