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October 23, 2013

Big Bird Run celebrates 35th anniversary

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

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Runners hit the pavement at the start of the Nov. 11, 2012, Big Bird Run. This year’s run is set for Nov. 10, with preregistration taking place at the Roseville-Eastpointe Recreation Center on Sycamore Street until Nov. 6.

ROSEVILLE — The annual Big Bird Run through Roseville returns for its 35th year Nov. 10 with the aim of raising money for Eastpointe- and Roseville-based community organizations.

According to Anthony Lipinski, Recreation Authority of Roseville & Eastpointe director, the run will follow the same route as in past years for its one-mile, 4k and 10k courses — starting from the recreation center on Sycamore Street, participants will head toward Gratiot Avenue and split off on different streets.

“Depending on which one, some (runners) will cut down a side street,” Lipinski said. “The 4k and 10k will go down Martin — 10k continues to the pedestrian bridge and crosses it twice, while the 4k doesn’t cross the bridge; they just make their way back here. It’s very similar to the past.”

Residents along the run routes are going to be asked to clear the streets of their vehicles to have as few obstacles as possible for runners, Lipinski said.  Day-of registration is scheduled for 8 a.m., with the run itself to begin at 10 a.m.

He said at the conclusion of the runs, around 12:30-1 p.m., raffles for roughly two dozen frozen turkeys — and possibly other prizes — will be held among the participants. Runners also get a long-sleeve shirt for participating, as well as a goody bag. They also will get bagels, fruit and bottled water at the conclusion of the run, Lipinski said.

The Big Bird Run started 35 years ago when local attorney Russ LaBarge and former Recreation Director Tony Snelling, both runners, were looking for a fundraiser for the Roseville Rotary Club.

“Together, (we) came up with this idea of having a 10k run, sponsored through the recreation department,” LaBarge said. “The volunteers and helpers together would be the rotary club, so that’s what we did.”

He said the run got its name originally because the prize for the first-place
finisher was a live turkey, though that particular tradition ended after the second year,  when someone stole the turkey before the race. After that, LaBarge said they moved to frozen birds, an ongoing tradition.

The original route of the run had participants starting at Roseville High School and running two loops around Martin Road, Gratiot Avenue and Barkman Road, LaBarge said, but as the race grew in size, the route changed, and more organizations got involved.

Soon, the Roseville Optimists and Kiwanis Club jumped in, and runners started coming in from as far away as London, Ontario, LaBarge said. Other additions, such as a band, flintlock shooters and even videotaped races all were brought to the event over the years.

Though he is not medically allowed to participate anymore, LaBarge said he is happy to see how the run has grown over the years.

“I’m just, of course, very pleased,” he said. “It was a nice little thing. We never thought it would get as big as it did, which is a surprise, and it turns out to be a nice fundraiser for everyone, too.”

Lipinski said that people who preregister at the recreation center or online by going to www. active.com and looking up the “Big Bird Run” by 4 p.m. Nov. 6 will pay $25 for the event. Otherwise, registration will cost $30. He said all the proceeds go toward community organizations, which also send volunteers to help run the event.

“Those organizations provide volunteers to help us run the event, and we need a lot of volunteers to pull off a successful event,” Lipinski said. “Then, the proceeds are divided up from the community, so all the proceeds go back into the community to help out needy families and students in the area.”

Some of the groups already signed up include the Roseville Optimist Club, the Roseville Kiwanis Club and the Lions Club, Lipinski said, adding that he is interested in getting Eastside Teen Outreach involved, as well. He said the Roseville Police Department also provides a lot of assistance, making sure the route is safe for participants.

“It is a fun event, and it’s good for families, too, “ Lipinski said. “There are three different distances, so we’re trying to get people out for their own fitness. They can run the one mile, the 4k or the 10k, and the proceeds go to a good cause. They’d be supporting our areas and families in Roseville and Eastpointe.”

For more information, call the recreation center at (586) 445-5480.