The Knights of Columbus Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble has been a Thanksgiving Day tradition in Charleston for more than three decades, but there's nothing wrong with tweaking a tradition.
Several changes are in store for this week's 32nd edition.
With a growth rate of about 15 percent every year since 2003 and in anticipation of cresting the 5,000 mark for the first time, Turkey Day officials decided to use computerized timing tags to provide faster, more accurate results -- as have many races that are even a fifth the size of TDR -- that can be posted online hours after the race, rather than days later with "hand-scored" results.
"That decision was made at the end of last year's race," said Peter Shahid, race director for the Knights of Columbus' PN Lynch Council No. 704. "People were agitated that the results took so long."
The Turkey Day Run has experienced steady growth under the leadership of Shahid, growing at about an average of 15 percent per year since 2003. Since then, its gone from 2,467 registrants to 4,874 last year. The only year it didn't set a new registration record came in 2006 following three dark, windy and rainy days. The weather cleared before the race started but the damage was done.
This year, Shahid expects the race to set another record and crest above the 5,000 mark for the first time. If the pace of registrations are any indication, those expectations will be met. As of Friday afternoon, 3,100 had signed up for Turkey Day. Last year, that number was 2,700 on the Sunday before the event.
Meanwhile, other significant changes involve a key ingredient of the Turkey Day Run: free beer.
Following a tightening of restrictions by the Charleston Police Department, last year's post-race beer area was moved from a blocked-off area on Calhoun Street to a parking lot beside the Knights of Columbus Hall.
On Thursday, the "beer garden" will be moved under a 100-by-40-foot tent in a corner of Marion Square nearest Embassy Suites hotel. The tent was set up Sunday for registration and packet pick-up, which runs through Thursday morning. Registration and packet pick-up was moved out of Knights of Columbus Hall because of structural issues with thousands of people coming in and out of the historic building.
More than ever, post-race events will move into Marion Square where children's races, which were started in 2007, will be held and where the band Plain Jane will perform from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. This is the first year the post-event festivities feature music.
"This whole thing has really come together," Shahid said. "I wanted the race to remain a competitive event, but we're (Knights of Columbus) a Catholic men's organization and we are committed to creating a family event for people to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day."
IF YOU GO
The 32nd annual Knights of Columbus Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble.
WHEN: 9 a.m. Thursday. (Kids races at 10 a.m.)
WHERE: Downtown Charleston.
COST: $35 with T-shirt; $25 without. $5 more on race morning.
REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP: 5-8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday; 7-8:45 a.m. Thursday. (Note: It will be held at a tent set up in Marion Square, not in Knights of Columbus Hall as in the past.
FREE PASTA: Provided by Bocci's. 5-7 p.m. at Embassy Suites Atrium. Donations will be accepted for charity.
ROAD CLOSURES: Calhoun Street, between King and Meeting, will close at 6 a.m. race morning. The race course, including Meeting and King streets south of Charlotte Street, will close at 8 a.m. Meeting will reopen as the race progresses down it, while King Street will reopen at the conclusion of the race. Calhoun Street will reopen no later than noon.
EVENT PARKING: People can park at available on-street spaces and at various garages including those at the Francis Marion Hotel, at Hutson Street, and at King and St. Philip streets.
FIRSTS FOR '09: Computer timing tags, a "beer garden" under a tent in Marion Square and music by Plain Jane starting at 9:30 a.m.
More info: turkeydayrun.com or 276-9339.