By JULIE ANNE RANCOURT, Press Correspondent
MIDDLETOWN - Motorcycles will not come out in the rain. Classic cars will not show up if there is even a suggestion of rain. Runners, however, will turn out even under the threat of a tornado warning.
As damaging rains and reports of hail and possible tornadoes blanketed the state Wednesday night, the Citizens Bank 5K Summer Fun Run and Middletown Festival kicked off as planned after a 15-minute delay.
Organizers had hoped for a record number of participants after more than 500 people pre-registered, more than ever before, but with the inclement weather, only about 100 registered immediately before the event.
"I'm just happy that the weather turned out the way it did. It cleared up nicely and we were able to get it off," said race organizer John Bysiewicz, explaining that it would be nearly impossible to reschedule due to the police overtime, the traffic plan that had been worked out, as well as the 100 volunteers needed to hold the event.
"And all the volunteers showed up, as scheduled," Bysiewicz said. "It was a little truncated this year, but it's just such a great event, with a good time for everybody."
The sixth annual festival featured live music by All in Band, with Oddfellows street performers delighting the crowd with juggling, unicycling and clowning and activities for kids like face painting, a moonwalk and a giant slide. Kidcity Children's Museum also had extended hours for the event.
"We like to extend the hours because there may be a spouse or younger child who isn't participating," Kidcity owner Jen Alexander said.
There was also a kid's ½ mile fun run to start the evening off.
But the main event of the night was the 5K run on a challenging course that showcases Main Street and the beautiful Wesleyan University campus. The course consisted of a double loop that challenged runners to climb William Street twice.
Leading the pack was 29-year-old Brendan Callahan of Middletown in 16:15. Kelly Flannigan, 20, of Middletown was the first female finisher in 18:34. Flannigan finished 10th overall.
A group of almost 20 children and parents from MacDonough Elementary School was there to run. Three years ago, Principal Jon Romeo started the MacDonough Running Club.
North End Action Team Executive Director Izzy Greenberg explained that many of the children had never participated in competitive sports before.
"It's been really inspiring for the families to see them cross the finish line," Greenberg said.
Twins Aiden and Dermot McMillan, 6, ran with the MacDonough Running Club and thought the best part of the race was the post-race pizza provided by Jerry's Pizza.
Proceeds from the event will go to benefit local charities. Over the last 14 years, the nonprofit event has given nearly $100,000 to a variety of charities. Last year's proceeds went to support the Chamber of Commerce Mentor Program, North Middlesex YMCA, Oddfellow's Playhouse, Kiwanis Club, Middletown Warm the Children, Middletown Bike Club, ArtFarm and Amazing Grace Food Pantry.
Major event sponsors included: Citizens Bank, The City of Middletown, Greater Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, Northeast Utilities, Connecticut Light & Power, Yankee Gas, Pratt & Whitney, Jackson Chevrolet, iluvaballoon, Radio 104.1 WMRQ, Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski LLC, Price Chopper, Fortuna & Cartelli, PC Attorneys and Connecticut Rental Center.