The Nisswa Firecracker Run, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in Nisswa on Saturday, July 6, has evolved into a holiday tradition for many families. And that's just what the event founder wanted.
The goal from the start, said David Janowiec, was to "make it a staple, make it a tradition."
The first Firecracker Run in 2010 attracted about 380 participants, and numbers have increased about 25 percent each year to the current 2,500 runners, Janowiec said.
"I saw an opportunity to reach a lot of people in town for fun, so we added another element of fun," he said, adding the event gives him the opportunity to return home during his favorite time of the year.
Janowiec grew up in Nisswa and graduated from Pequot Lakes High School. He now works with The Recess Factory, an event management company based in Colorado that puts on the Firecracker Run. He said it's also become tradition for his staff in Colorado to come to Nisswa for the event.
"They love it and look forward to it as a 'workation,'" Janowiec said.
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Nisswa Firecracker Run
- When: 8 a.m. Saturday, July 6.
- Where: Main Street, downtown Nisswa.
- What: 10K, 5K and Kidz Run for ages 10 and under whose parent or guardian participates in the 10K or 5K. No registration necessary for Kidz Run.
- Register: www.RunUpNorth.com. The run is limited to 2,500 participants.
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The Firecracker Run, which has always included both 5K and 10K runs, is more of an experience rather than just another race, Janowiec said.
"We added elements to make it interesting and appealing for people," he said. "So many people tell us it's a tradition for them."
Those elements have always included a Slip'N Slide at the end of the race, though it has evolved into something bigger and better over the years. End-of-race attractions now include two big inflatable Slip'N Slides and a foam machine that spews red, white and blue bubbles.
Don't forget the crawfish boil. Janowiec's wife is from New Orleans, and that's where he experienced his first backyard crawfish boil.
"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh. This is great for large crowds,'" he said, so he incorporated it into the Firecracker Run. People are intrigued by it and love it.
"My dad learned how to cook crawfish quick," Janowiec said, noting they make 300 pounds for the race day event.
An unplanned tradition that started that first year revolves around the national anthem. That first year, an announcer asked if there was anyone in the crowd who wanted to step up and sing the anthem before the race. Andrea Schutz, a runner from Hastings, came forward and belted out the anthem, leaving everyone speechless. She's been doing so ever since.
Janowiec said race organizers learned something about firecrackers that first year as well.
"We always start the event with a firecracker of some kind," he said, and that first year they lit Black Cats about 300 yards from the starting line. However, they didn't clarify with runners that the firecrackers were not meant to signal the start of the race.
"We lit them off and everyone started running and people were running over the Black Cats going off," Janowiec said. "That first year, that was a big ooops."
Now they light a five-inch cannon that shoots straight up with one loud boom.
The Nisswa Firecracker Run's success led to an identical event in Colorado that is in its fifth year.
"It's the exact same event except it's in Colorado," Janowiec said.
The Nisswa event fills him with a sense of pride when old friends, mentors and people he worked for while growing up in Nisswa come up and thank him.
As for the 10th anniversary event, Janowiec said organizers plan to add a few surprises at the finish line area to continue to entice participants to stick around for awhile before heading downtown or back to the lake on the holiday weekend.
"Now it's become a hodgepodge Independence Day event where we added a bunch of stuff for people to stick around. Kids love it, and it all ties back to Fourth of July summer fun," he said.
The Nisswa Firecracker Run's official charity is Bridges of Hope, an organization that benefits from event proceeds.