GREENFIELD — When the Turkey Day 5K in Greenfield was introduced in 2016, organizers were looking to offer a small-town alternative to the larger Drumstick Dash held in Indianapolis each Thanksgiving Day.
What they didn’t expect is just how much the local event would grow.
This year’s 5K and family fun run has already reached the goal of 650 participants — a big leap from 150 participants that first year, and a 20 percent jump compared to last year’s crowd of 526.
Yet organizers say the Turkey Day 5K still has that same small town feel.
“That’s what we were going for that first year, and it’s still what you’ll get this year,” said parks director Ellen Kuker.
“The 5K takes participants past the shops on Main Street and down the Pennsy Trail, then finally through Riley Park, so it’s a really beautiful route,” she said.
Assistant parks director Julie Patterson said the event — which starts at 9 a.m. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day — is the perfect way to kick off the holidays.
“You’ll go past all the beautifully decorated storefronts downtown and be able to enjoy all the holiday lights that are already up on the Pennsy Trail. You’ll definitely feel the holiday spirit,” she said.
Local police will be directing traffic while volunteers — including students from Greenfield-Central High School’s Interact club — will help guide participants along the right path.
Patterson, a longtime runner who joined the parks staff earlier this year, said she’s looking forward to running her first Turkey Day 5K in Greenfield this year.
“I’ve done the Drumstick Dash in Broad Ripple for years, and that has 19,000 people, so this is my fresh alternative,” she said. “It’s closer to home so it’s going to be so much more manageable, and I think a lot of people are thinking the same thing.”
The event includes a one-mile option for those who lke to take a shorter route, including many who opt to bring along their dogs or baby strollers.
Connie Schmidt of Greenifeld said she’s looking forward to walking in her eighth consecutive Turkey Day 5K, having done so since the event kicked off in 2016.
She and her husband, Gary, opt for walking the 5.1K — which is equivalent to roughly three miles.
“I look forward to it every year. I just like getting out because it’s fun and there’s friends and family there, and we usually get to walk together, unless some of us are running or bringing up the rear to make sure nobody gets left behind,” said Schmidt, 67. “Plus it’s good exercise, and that way I don’t feel guilty when I have a big piece of pumpkin pie.”
Proceeds from the Turkey Day 5K are divided between the three host organizations — Greenfield Parks & Recreation, Greenfield Main Street and the Hancock Hope House.
While the registration website shows that the Turkey Day 5K is sold out, Patterson said participants are still welcome to register the day of the event and support a good cause.
“They just won’t get a T-shirt and medal,” said Patterson, who hopes even more people will come out to enjoy a healthy start to Thanksgiving Day.
The Turkey Day 5K kicks off at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning at Greenfield Christian Church, at 23 N. East St. in downtown Greenfield.
The 5K starts out heading west on Main Street, south on Center Street, then turns back east along the Pennsy Trail. The path then heads north on Morristown Pike to Riley Park, then west along Main Street back to the starting point.
Same-day registration costs $40 for the 5K and $30 for the family fun run, and starts at 7:30 a.m. that day.
For information, visit runsignup.com/Race/IN/Greenfield/GreenfieldTurkeyDay5K.