No Strawberry Festival race for first time in 30 years

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 June 2020 at 10:22 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Erin Smith was “The Strawberry” during the June 10, 2018 race. She is battling near the finish with Jeff Casillo. The two are now married.

ALBION – This Saturday would have been the 30th anniversary of the 5K and 8K races at the Albion Strawberry Festival.

But with the festival cancelled, and a current ban on most social gatherings to no more than 10 people, the race isn’t happening.

The race typically attracts about 200 runners, making it one of the better attended races in the GLOW counties. It hit a high of 320 runners in 2015.

Brian Krieger has served as the race director the past 11 years, following 19 years by the late Judy Christopher. She started the race as a motivator for people in the community to work on their fitness goals. Christopher used to own the Phoenix Fitness gym.

Krieger also saw the race as fun community event, in addition to serving as a motivator for people to get out walking and running. The race in recent years had someone dress up in a strawberry costume, and prizes were given to runners who beat “The Strawberry.”

Krieger and his friend, the late Wayne Burlison, also organized a “Run for God” program through the Albion Free Methodist Church. That was like a “Couch for 5K” program designed to take people who haven’t been too active with running to finishing a 5K after three months of training. The Strawberry Fest would be the culminating event in the program.

A race in March honoring the memory of Burlison – the sixth annual Wayne Burlison Colon Cancer Awareness 5K – also was cancelled due to Covid-19. The Burlison race and Strawberry Festival run are both organized by the Albion Running Club.

This Saturday’s Strawberry Festival race would have been Krieger’s last time as the race director. He is handing off the reins to Bert Gallmon for 2021.

“I’m disappointed for the first time in 30 years it won’t be happening,” Krieger said about the race. “It was just fun.”

Besides given out medals to age groups winners, the race organizers gave out jars of strawberry jam to leading runners in each age group.

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