Special to the Sun
What started out as a good fund-raiser for Canton Academy Parents Auxiliary back in 2007 has evolved into an annual unique, family-friendly community event. Dawn Lampkin, original run-organizer, remembers when the 5K course started at the school and went through Kathy Circle and down Dinkins Street. “It was my oldest daughter’s first year at CA, and we had about 75 runners/walkers participate in the Panther Run,” Lampkin said.
Eventually the race attracted more runners, and it was suggested that the Panther Run be changed to an evening run during the Victorian Christmas on Canton’s square so participants could enjoy the city’s light display. From that idea, the Holiday Hustle was born. Beginning at the train depot and winding through the Square, Fulton and Center Streets and ending at the Gin, racers like the change of scenery and the uniqueness of an evening run. CA junior and cross country team member Ava Dickerson has won the Holiday Hustle in her age group more than once, and she said, “I like that the race is at night. It’s laid back. There are lots of people dressed up and kids everywhere, and I love the lights.”
Matthew Manning also puts running under the Christmas lights at the top of his what-makes-this-race-fun list. He has run this particular event more times than he can remember and has been the overall winner all but one of those years. “There is no race out there like this,” said Matthew. He ran for Mississippi College’s cross country team at Nationals in Wisconsin and Ohio in 2005 and 2006 and now participates in a few 5Ks throughout the year as well as the MS Blues Marathon. “The Holiday Hustle is so well-organized. The novelty of it being at night, and I get to run in my hometown makes it a beautiful, worthwhile event.” Matthew lives in Jackson now, but looks forward to running in Canton every year.
Current Belhaven University sophomore and cross country team member Matt Taylor remembers running after Matthew for several years. “Competition. That’s what I like – chasing after Matthew Manning. It’s a great time, too, and I plan on doing it again this year.”
While in town, runners’ families and friends can enjoy the Victorian Christmas with attractions on the Courthouse lawn, rides around the Square, photos with Santa, animation museum, business’ extended holiday hours, and of course the thousands of lights. “We are excited about our new Christmas Village this year,” said Jana Padgett Dear, executive director of Canton Tourism. The Victorian Christmas opens November 24 and runs through December 23.
“The Christmas atmosphere and the Christmas spirit are my favorite parts,” said Lou Ann Durfey (Ridgeland, MS). “Running at night is very different, and it’s cooler this time of year.” Wearing Santa hats, the Canton Academy cheerleaders stand in several spots along the race course cheering runners on to the finish line which adds to the festive Christmas spirit. Jenny Wadford (Canton, MS) and her whole family will be participating again this year – as they have for the past six years. When they first started, her two boys ran in the Reindeer Trot run for kids and won, but since then they have both joined the high school cross country team and run the entire 5K.
Sarah Willis, past race organizer adds, “I appreciate the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and the Canton Police Department for keeping us safe. With them on the route, even running at night, I feel safe.” Officers are visible throughout the route, closing streets to traffic so that runners basically have an open track. All focus is on runners’ safety.
“The Holiday Hustle is a great event for Canton Academy. Lots of work goes into it! It’s a fun run that has attracted some great runners in years past,” said Head of Schools Ron Jurney.
The 2017 Holiday Hustle will be Thursday, December 14. The Reindeer Trot fun run will begin at 6:00pm, and the 5K begins at 6:30 at the historic train depot in downtown Canton. More information may be found at www.cantonacademy.org and www.msracetiming.com or by contacting this year’s race director Stacey Sanders at email@example.com.