An estimated 185 people, many dressed in unconventional attire for running or walking, take off from the starting line outside Centennial Hall during the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

An estimated 185 people, many dressed in unconventional attire for running or walking, take off from the starting line outside Centennial Hall during the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau revives its summer solstice spirit with Only Fools Run At Night

Runners and walkers in madcap costumes fill downtown streets as race returns after six-year absence.

This story has been updated with the rankings of participants finishing the event.

A group of rain clouds wheeling bolts of lightning in a baby stroller, a pair of ancient Incas carrying a llama and a crew of trail workers hauling a colleague in a wheelbarrow were just part of the crowd of nearly 200 people participating in the Only Fools Run At Night race that returned to downtown Juneau on Friday after a six-year absence.

The revived race departed somewhat from its traditional roots of starting at midnight on the summer solstice, beginning instead at 9 p.m. one day after the solstice (which occurred a day earlier than normal, the earliest in 228 years). But otherwise the 36th occurrence of the event kept to traditions including crazy costumes, using registration fee as a fundraiser (for the high school cross-country team this year) and favoring a collective mentality over individual competitiveness.

Among the many participants taking part in the one-mile and 5K courses as themed groups was Nick Waldo, wearing a caveman outfit and carrying a club to match the attire of prehistoric pals Carl and Heidi Brodersen.

“I did this run as a kid and loved it, and so I was really happy to see it come back,” Waldo said. “And then Carl’s a friend of mine and he said he was organizing a group of cavemen…These things are more fun to do as a group than to just show up yourself.”

A trio dressed as the makings for s’mores approaches the finish line at the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A trio dressed as the makings for s’mores approaches the finish line at the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The caveperson outfits are part of a more elaborate set people brought to the race about 20 years ago that included a large woolly mammoth, Carl Brodersen said.

“And then of course if you’ve got your mammoth we must dress up like cavepeople and chase it with spears,” he said. Unfortunately, at some point the mammoth “got left at the top of his parents’ driveway and disintegrated.”

Waldo said considering it was his first 5K with such racing gear he thought he did pretty well.

“I think I was the first one to finish carrying a prop so I win the fun category,” he said, referring to a self-invented category that doesn’t officially exist.

There was, however, a costume contest before the race, with the three group finalists all sharing the common trait of carrying a large prop. The most elaborate among them was a sextet calling themselves the Juneau Forecast, featuring five adults wearing umbrella hats piled high with “clouds” made of poly-fill and circled with strands of “raindrops” made from felt, and a toddler in a stroller adorned with electrified lightning bolts.

Five adults and a tot calling themselves the Juneau Forecast head out from the starting line of the Only Fools Run At Night to take part in the one-mile course on Friday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Five adults and a tot calling themselves the Juneau Forecast head out from the starting line of the Only Fools Run At Night to take part in the one-mile course on Friday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The idea was sparked by Stephanie Helf, who said it’s been at least a decade since she participated in an Only Fool’s Run, dressed at that time with other members of a group as gold nuggets. This year the team includes three generations of her family with her daughter Breanna as one of the clouds and her 18-month-old grandson Theodore in the stroller.

While the group didn’t take to the streets of Juneau in the outfits at midnight on the solstice, Helf said they were up until nearly that late the day before the event making them.

“It took a couple hours to get all the foam sprayed on and then we all worked on it last night for like four hours,” she said, estimating they finished around 11 p.m. or so.

The youngest finalists were Kimberly Klawonn, 9, and Morgan Adams, 10, dressed as lead characters from “The Emperor’s New Groove” as they carried around a large inflatable llama who in the cartoon film is a transformed emperor gone awry.

“I came up with the idea because we did the dance to it last year so we already had the costumes,” Adams said.

Members of the Trail Mix team reach the finish line of the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Members of the Trail Mix team reach the finish line of the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday at Centennial Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Winning the contest were seven people involved with Trail Mix, who came dressed for work in hard hats and carhartts while pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with dirt and tools. At least two of the participants said they planned to do the full 5K course, taking turns pushing a colleague in the wheelbarrow along the way.

“I’ve done worse,” said Mark Krumwiede, Trail Mix’s trail project coordinator. “I was in the army.”

The number of participants after the multiyear absence was well below earlier years as Juneau’s largest annual road race, with an estimated 750 to 800 taking part in a rain-drenched event (with a couple hundred more who registered apparently staying home) during the eighth annual Only Fools Run At Midnight in 1992. But on Friday evening Alan Edwards, a retired firefighter and the racer’s founder, told this year’s participants a lot of other things were different about Juneau then as well, which led to the event and its popularity.

“We we only had one cruise ship a week,” he said. “So downtown Juneau was a working town. And every building was a mercantile or a bar all the way down. So what we did in our fireman boots is we hit the bars and we asked for money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Alaska…We did pretty good; we got like $5,000 in one night. But I was an avid runner and I said to myself ‘There’s got to be a better way.’ So I came up with the idea at the (fire) hall, I said ‘How about Only Fools Run At Midnight?’ And that’s how it started.”

Alan Edwards, left, a retired firefighter who founded the Only Fools Run At Midnight race 40 years ago, talks about the history of the event during the renamed Only Fools Run At Night on Friday at Centennial Hall, as costume clad Abby Jahn, chair of this year’s race organizing group, and fellow organizer Carl Brodersen listen. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Alan Edwards, left, a retired firefighter who founded the Only Fools Run At Midnight race 40 years ago, talks about the history of the event during the renamed Only Fools Run At Night on Friday at Centennial Hall, as costume clad Abby Jahn, chair of this year’s race organizing group, and fellow organizer Carl Brodersen listen. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Edwards said about 800 to 900 people participated in the first race that started at the downtown fire station and “in the first 10 years we raised $187,000.”

“I retired and the race kind of went on to other organizations,” he said. “That warms my heart because the spirit of the Fool’s Run is still going on.”

The top three finishers in the one-mile race were Stephanie Sauve in eight minutes and 15 seconds, Nora Johnson in 9:35 and Grant Wick in 9:36. The top 5K finishers were Jason Norat in 16:50, Corbyn Jahn in 16:57 and Jessie Stringer in 17:52. (See full list of finishers below)

Jason Norat, wearing his girlfriend’s pink tutu, nears the finish line as the winner of the 5K race during the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Jason Norat, wearing his girlfriend’s pink tutu, nears the finish line as the winner of the 5K race during the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Norat achieved his winning time in a pink tutu and matching top, which he said didn’t come from the athletic wear of Nugget Alaskan Outfitter or any similar retail shop.

“I got this from my girlfriend’s closet,” he said, noting she was wearing a tiger outfit “that’s more male than it is female for sure.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Participants in a costume contest gather on stage at Centennial Hall before the start of the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Participants in a costume contest gather on stage at Centennial Hall before the start of the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The list of finishers in the 2024 Only Fools Run At Night. Times for all participants was not possible due to logistical complications. (Courtesy of Juneau Trail and Road Runners)

The list of finishers in the 2024 Only Fools Run At Night. Times for all participants was not possible due to logistical complications. (Courtesy of Juneau Trail and Road Runners)

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