SKANEATELES | A sunny sky made for perfect Turkey Trot weather on Thursday morning.
As turkeys baked in the oven or lay ready for stuffing, Skaneateles residents and their friends and family gathered for an annual tradition to burn a few calories and give back to their local food pantry.
“Grand Turkey” Dennis Owen stood at his local spot, perched above a bustling crowd of runners in Clift Park. And at 9 a.m. sharp he led the group in singing “God Bless America.”
Owen said the Turkey Trot started nearly 15 years ago and he’s spent many of those years leading the charge of supporters to raise awareness for those less fortunate. This year, Owen said he hoped for $1,500 in donations.
Families gathered from multiple states from Maine to Michigan to run, each having their own special story to share.
James and Vanessa Benson are active military members. Vanessa Benson is a lt. col. in the Army and James is a helicopter pilot. The married couple were reunited on Saturday. James Benson just returned after 60 days in Afghanistan, he said. The annual Turkey Trot has become somewhat of a tradition for he and his family as a way to come out, have a good time and support a good cause.
“Being here every Thanksgiving really brings the family together,” James Benson said. “And it’s a way for everyone to see each other and for us to come home.”
Runners of all ages trotted the 3.12 miles including much younger racers.
Sean Kerwick, 7, finished the race in practically no time and grinned from ear to ear. As family members crowded around him and all of his cousins, Kerwick said he was proud of his accomplishment.
Dominic Cross, 6, was one of the youngest participants and raced alongside his dad, Adam Cross. The race is a yearly tradition for the Cross family, Adam said.
As runners started trickling in after only 16 minutes into the race, Dennis Owen and his son Marty Owen stood on the sideline cheering everyone on. Bloody Mary’s, hot chocolate and cookies awaited the thirsty crowd at the Sherwood Inn, and as families enjoyed the opportunity to catch up, Dennis removed his hat as he’d done every other year and began collecting for the food pantry.
“It’s a beautiful day to do this and look at all these folks,” Dennis said wide-eyed and grinning. “We’ve got such a wonderful tradition going here and it’s just a beautiful time for us all to come together.”