The Independence Day weekend is a big one for runners in the lakes area, and hundreds of them will be in Crosslake on Saturday morning, July 6, for Grandpa’s Run for the Walleye.

The event, now in its 22nd year, sees runners, walkers, kids and pets complete a course that begins and ends at the Crosslake Community Center.

“It is a 5K, 10K and kids race we do every Fourth of July weekend in Crosslake,” assistant race director Dave Fischer said. “The race is sponsored by the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, and proceeds go toward fish habitat improvements on the Whitefish Chain.”

Fischer said he and his fellow event coordinators expect roughly 700 runners and walkers to take part in the event, as registrations one week before the event were “slightly ahead” of those from 2018.

“It really depends on what the weather is like Friday and Saturday,” Fischer said. “What we find is a lot of people coming up for the weekend decide last-minute to participate. Sometimes, upwards of 200 people sign up Friday night into Saturday morning.”

The event began in 1997, when the grandchildren of the late William “Boots” Buthman reached out to WAPOA to discuss sponsoring a race in his memory, providing the community an event to enjoy and striving to improve fishing on the Whitefish Chain.

“It started as a memorial fundraiser for a continuation of walleye fishing on the Whitefish Chain,” Fischer said. “Over the years, we have broadened that out to include fish habitat … We now know that stocking alone doesn’t increase fish populations if the habitat isn’t right.”

In the years since, the event has continued to grow - particularly since 2010, when the course as it is today went into effect. Since that time, participation has nearly tripled.

In years prior, the course was not in a circle, instead opting for more of a “down and back” course layout.

As participation increased in recent years, so has the need for help. Luckily, race officials have plenty of people willing to lend a hand.

“We are all volunteers,” Fischer said. “Other than bringing in a guy who does the chip timing for us, we are all volunteering and it takes about 60 people to put on this race … Most of the volunteers are also active in our lake association.”

Proceeds from the event have greatly benefited the efforts of WAPOA. In recent years, projects funded by the race include establishing a spawning area in Hay Creek - which connects Upper Hay Lake to Lower Hay Lake - and limiting grazing runoff on the Pine River, which feeds into the Whitefish Chain.

“Studies have shown that 80% of the phosphorus, which causes algae growth and whatnot, that goes into the Whitefish Chain comes down from the Pine River,” Fischer said.

The 10K race will begin at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, with the 5K to begin 15 minutes later. The Sunfish Dash kids’ race will begin at 9:45 a.m., after awards are presented for the 5K and 10K.

“We get a lot of compliments on the race from people,” Fischer said. “They have a good time, and they seem to run it year after year.”