A sea of Santas: Arlington Heights Rotary's Santa Run Saturday is its signature event
What's red and white -- and stretches more than a block in downtown Arlington Heights? The start of the annual Rotary Santa Run, that's what.
This special holiday event is expected to draw nearly 1,500 runners this year, all dressed as the jolly, old elf himself.
Hosted for the 12th year by members of the Rotary Club of Arlington Heights, the 5K race weaves runners through the surrounding neighborhoods. It also features a 1-mile walk for those who prefer a slower pace and a four-block Reindeer Run for kids ages 10 and younger. The cost of the Santa suit is included in the registration fee.
Rotarians initiated the race back in 2007. From the start, they were looking for a fundraiser that would help increase their visibility in the community and raise more than the reverse raffle they had been holding annually.
At the time, they knew only of the Great Santa Run in Las Vegas, which they began partnering with in order to provide the red suits. Since Arlington launched its successful event -- drawing an average of 1,200 runners each year -- eight other Santa Runs have popped up across the Chicagoland area.
"It's become our signature event," says Rotarian Jon Ridler, race director, who says that over the years the race has allowed the club to donate more than $250,000 to worthy causes throughout the Northwest suburbs and internationally.
"It can be a fun run or competitive," Ridler adds. "More than anything, it brings the community together and serves as a great way to kick off the holidays."
Merchants in the downtown business sector of Arlington Heights agree, including Peggy Kinnane's Irish Restaurant and Pub and Cortland's Garage, two of its loyal business sponsors. Both see an immediate impact on race day, before and after the race.
"It's huge, it's so much fun," says Michele Hanley, co-owner of Peggy Kinnane's.
"After the race, there's just a sea of Santas in here. Everybody's laughing and in such great spirits, all celebrating the holiday season."
Weather plays an important role, as with any recreational run, but particularly one in December. The first year, Santas stepped off in a light snowfall, which made the event picturesque and even more fun. Since then, the weather has been mixed, but with Saturday's forecast of partly sunny skies and mid-40s, Rotarians are expecting a big turnout. Earlier this week, they had 1,100 participants already registered and they expect more on race day.
"We always get more registrations the week of the race," Ridler says. "It's supposed to be a beautiful day, so we're expecting 1,500 to line up."
For children ages 10 and younger, there is the David Jaffe @properties Reindeer Run at 9:30 a.m., a four-block run where the kids are never out of sight.
They finish in the first floor of the Vail Avenue Garage at the corner of Campbell Street and South Highland Street, just ahead of the rest of the Santas. Each child receives reindeer antlers and a red nose.
• • •
12th annual Rotary Santa Run
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7
Where: Starting line and same day registration in front of Metropolis Performing Arts Center, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights
Cost: $40 for adults, $30 for runners ages 12 and younger; $40 for adult walkers, $30 for walkers 12 and younger; $5 for Reindeer Run for children ages 10 and younger