SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Missouri’s biggest and grandest Thanksgiving 5K Turkey Trot and one of Springfield’s signature events had humble beginnings in 1995.
The 3.1-mile holiday run/walk debuted on a day when it was 17 degrees. It was contested on a course that included two loops near Evangel University and had 142 finishers.
Today, the event typically draws over 7,000 runners and walkers, many in costume.
Prizes back in 1995 included at least one television set and exactly 10 turkeys.
They were awarded randomly, recalls Jodie Adams, who worked for the Park Board 32 years and was director from 2006 to 2012.
Bib numbers were drawn to match prizes with runners.
The television was donated by the General Electric Company, which was a race sponsor. Other sponsors were the Springfield Park Board, Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners, Council of Churches and the Developmental Center of the Ozarks.
Race registration back then was a mere $10 with day-of-race signup costing $12.
Adams says she knew the first turkey trot was a success the moment a runner crossed the finish in a full turkey costume.
“That just made our day,” she says. “It was perfect.”
In the early years, the race was held near the Development Center of the Ozarks, 1545 E. Pythian St., near Evangel University.
Runners, now and then, are asked to bring canned food to donate. The proceeds of the race are split between the center and park board, which provides scholarships to children who otherwise might not be able to afford park programs.