Ron Gbur, former Executive Director of Palatine Park District, was new to the recreation department when he pitched the Thanksgiving Day event 40 years ago. The goal was to create a family-oriented fitness tradition, that inspired the community to get outside, break a sweat, and spend time with their loved ones. While Gbur was confident the event checked all the boxes, he said “In 1983, I realized this event was here to stay … it was our third year, and we knew the numbers were growing. But when we saw that many of the participants were returning runners, [the district] realized the race’s potential.”
2020 not only marks the 75th Anniversary of Palatine Park District, but also forty years of the annual Turkey Trot. Turkey Trot started as a modest community event, held at Palatine Hills Golf Course. Over the years, as participant numbers rose, the event outgrew the paths and the clubhouse, and was moved to the grounds of Harper College in 1998. In recent years, the event has brought nearly 2,000 runners to the starting line.
Acknowledging that 2020’s race will look incredibly different than the previous 39 years, Gbur didn’t hesitate when asked if he will be running this year’s virtual event. “Of course, it’s the next best thing to being there! Put on that 2020 Turkey Trot shirt and run, run-walk, or walk … you’ll feel the tradition and excitement.”
District staff is thrilled to report that there are over 350 runners already registered for this year’s event. Noting that part of the appeal of an in-person race is the energy of your fellow competitors, the District feared 2020’s Turkey Trot would be dismal. Instead, the community members of Palatine have proven that even a pandemic cannot squash the Turkey Trot tradition.
While COVID-19 has forced the District to cancel many special events and programs, our services remain in high demand as outdoor spaces have been crucial to proper social distancing guidelines. Gbur acknowledged that while local government agencies need to innovate and adapt, the demand for our historic services has not slowed down, “parks and recreation have given people an opportunity to escape from a new, sometimes difficult daily routine. From walking and biking the Palatine Trail to sitting on a park bench, these simple but highly treasured activities allow us to refresh in this challenging time.”
As the community gears up for the 40th Anniversary of Turkey Trot, Gbur noted one of his very favorite memories – looking out onto the street, filled with runners from edge to edge, as far as the eye can see! While the District knows this year’s race won’t look quite the same, staff hope you still can feel the comradery as everyone heads out on their own 2-mile or 5-mile path.
To register for Palatine Park District’s Turkey Trot, please visit register.palatineparks.org. Registration is $25 per person and includes a 40th Anniversary Medal and a long sleeve tek shirt.