The Strides of March 5K and Fun Run didn’t quite reach the record number of participants set last year, but Tammy Perry, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, was pleased with the turnout.
“Our main focus is getting the community out,” Perry said.
The parking lot and the park across the street from the center were filled to capacity, while young children enjoyed an inflated bouncy castle set up in the park. Runners and their families wandered from the gymnasium, where breakfast was being served, to the park and back talking and laughing with their neighbors.
Beverly Casey, who participated in the 5K for the first time this year, said she wanted to be a part of the community event this year.
“I’ve actually been here and watched but I’ve never participated,” Casey said. “I’m hoping to make this a tradition.”
The race was originally started by Cleburne County Emergency Management Agency, Perry said. EMA organized it for three years; then the city took over, she said. This is the fifth year the city has organized the event.
“It was hard, hilly, very hilly,” said Angela Palmer, who won third place in women’s overall. “It was my slowest time. But it was organized really well.”
This was Palmer’s first race after a two-year hiatus after she had her son. But it won’t be her last, she said.
The oldest participant in the race, 89-year-old Wilbur Smallwood, made the trek from Anniston to run. Smallwood, a member of the Anniston Runners Club, said he’s in about 10 to 12 races a year.
“It’s just good to get out and run,” Smallwood said, with a laugh.
The race was the first event of the city’s Irish events for the day. The St. Pawtrick’s Day Pet Parade kicked off about 90 minutes after runners’ awards, and many of the same faces could be seen at both.
There were 60 pets in the parade, including dogs, cats, frogs, birds and a turtle, said Kim Stone, assistant city clerk.
Haleigh Kaylor, the owner of Holly and Jolly, the two tiny frogs in their aquarium, said she brought them because she thought most people would bring dogs, she said.
“Many people don’t have frogs,” Kaylor said.
She was there with her grandmother Linda Kaylor and aunt Gail Walker.
“She’s been excited for days,” her grandmother said.
Walker said she has been bringing her dog Brody, a Pomeranian to the parade for as long as the city has been having it. She was still tweaking her dog’s costume and fastening some green sequined leg pieces on his front legs.
“Because, I’ve got such a pretty dog and I know it,” she said.
But not all the pets in the parade were local.
Jonnie Poer from Douglasville, Ga., brought her two miniature schnauzers, Lizzie and Liza, to the parade after reading about it online.
“I had the day off and I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” Poer said. “We already had the little outfits.”
She’s part of a dog owners group that travels around dressing up their pets for special events, she said. Her dogs have a whole closet of apparel for nearly every occasion, Poer said.
“I’ve been dressing ‘em up since they were pups,” she said.
The parade also drew people who serve local pets.
Kathy Hamilton, who was serving her last day as Cleburne County Coordinator for Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation, set up a table in Ross Park to try to recruit members for the organization and also to educate the public on animal issues. For instance, AVRAL supported successful legislation that banned animal euthanization by gas chamber.
“It’s a pet event and we are all about animal issues,” Hamilton said. “You would hope that people who have pets are interested in the best things for their pets and there are many improvements that need to be made in the laws of the state.”
Dr. Tracy Whitaker, a veterinarian from Rolling Hill Veterinary Services, was offering rabies, distemper and parvo vaccinations at his mobile clinic.
“I’m the Cleburne County Rabies Officer,” Whitaker said. “So, we vaccinate most of the dogs around here.”
He takes the clinic out several times a year and is scheduled to do a second mobile rabies clinic in about a month, Whitaker said. He usually does about 40 to 50 vaccinations during one of his visits, he said.
But most people were just out to have fun.
Mandy Downs, her 20-month-old son Rhett and her mother, Sherry Eaves, were sitting on a bench along Ross Street before the parade.
“My granddog is in the parade,” Eaves said with a laugh.
Her family came to the parade last year for the first time and they brought their dog this year.
“His older brother’s walking our dog,” Downs said.
Their dachshund, Oscar, was wearing a hot dog costume with a shamrock hat, Downs said.
“It was so much fun last year,” Downs said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.