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Turkey Trot tradition has a new look

Bitters & Bones owners Jim, left, and John Williams stand in front of their bar and restaurant in Saranac Lake Tuesday after hanging a banner promoting the 6th annual Adirondack Turkey Trot. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — “The Trot wants you.” And this year the need is bigger than ever.

For the past five years, Bitters & Bones owners John and Jim Williams have organized and hosted the annual Adirondack Turkey Trot that began early in the morning each Thanksgiving Day in front of their bar and restaurant on Broadway in Saranac Lake.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t allowing that to happen, but it certainly didn’t prevent the two brothers from reaching out to the community to continue a charity effort that has been nothing short of exceptional.

In five years, Jim said the 5K Turkey Trot has raised approximately $92,000 for two important local causes — the Saranac Lake Student Needs Fund and the Saranac Lake Interfaith Food Pantry. John said the inaugural Turkey Trot drew a field of 92 participants and that the number swelled to nearly 300 a year ago. Although there won’t be the usual festive gathering on Thanksgiving morning for the sixth annual event, the tradition will continue with a different look and last nearly the entire month of November.

Instead of runners and walkers proceeding from Bitters & Bones to Casa del Sol and back, the Trot will begin this Sunday and last through the end of Thanksgiving Day. And instead of relying on area businesses that have in the past raised the vast majority of the funds received, participants are being asked to find people to sponsor them for each mile covered during the 26 days of the event. Those who enter can go out on multiple days and accumulate miles, and as long as it’s on foot, anything goes.

“People get a pledge sheet and go around and collect their pledges,” Jim said Tuesday, shortly after hanging up a banner with his brother on the front of their establishment promoting the Turkey Trot. “You have from November 1 through the end of Thanksgiving Day to log as many miles walking, running, hiking, anything on your feet, and at the end of that time period you collect your pledges. There’s no real race.”

Jim pointed out that because many businesses have taken a big financial hit from the pandemic, they’d rather turn to the rest of the community for support this time around. In fact, their bar and restaurant could fall into that category, as its doors have been shuttered since mid-March and they have been pushing through by only offering takeout dinner service.

“I would say without having all the numbers hashed out, about 75-80% we’ve raised was through small business sponsors. Local businesses, they’ve been toeing the line,” Jim said. “One of the things that is significant about this year is it’s probably the hardest year that local businesses have had in a long time being shut down and everything.

“But if businesses or individuals want to donate, they’re certainly welcome and encouraged to do that,” John added. “We have repeat strong supporters… and I’m sure there are going to be a good number of folks that will want to continue the tradition of giving.”

The registration fee for the Trot is $20, and participants can sign up and download pledge forms on line at adkturkeytrot.com, adkturkeytrot.org or by visiting the Bitters & Bones website. Each participant will receive a T-shirt, which this year has a camouflage look, along with the traditional turkey caricature and the business logo.

“This is how it works,” John explained. “If you ran 10 miles, you walked 10 miles, which about anybody can do, and you had 10 sponsors each giving you 10 bucks, that’s some money. We’re really hoping that on any given day you can drive or run through town and see three or four of these camouflage Turkey Trot shirts out there, and this year we’re pretty excited about them.”

John also pointed out that on the back of this year’s shirt is printed with this year’s adopted slogan, “Little town, lotta heart.”

“This is the perfect time for those of us in the community who can step up to just show our heart, show our love for the community and realize that every mile that we run is going to be a little bit of food on somebody’s plate who otherwise might not have it,” John said.

In addition to helping out two local charities, another big incentive has been included in this year’s Turkey Trot. There will be a $1,000 Bitters & Bones gift certificate awarded to the participant who logs the most miles, and the exact same prize will also be given to the person who raises the most money. John said that on Tuesday, more than 30 people had already signed up.

“It’s pretty clear that this is the year, out of any, that this is most needed,” John said. “Food banks are taxed more than they’ve ever been. We’ve been in contact with some of the administrators at the school, and they’re looking for ways to keep their kids healthy and ready for school. I don’t think there was ever a time that we thought maybe it was a good idea not to have this. And plus, I’ve always feel this is something positive for the community. It’s just kind of uplifting.”

“It took a little creativity this year because we couldn’t have the standard template,” Jim said. “There is no 300-person event, but it’s a way that people can contribute, do something positive, get in a little healthy activity before the long winter and bring us back to life a little bit.”

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