By Brenda Stoddard
Even before I lived in Schoolcraft, I participated as a runner in the race held on the 4th of July for many years. I always loved the small town feel of the race and the fact that it was the event that kicked off the Schoolcraft Independence day celebration! John Stodola was race director back then and did a wonderful job. When he resigned, he held a meeting for those interested in helping “keep the race alive”. I was one of two that showed up to the meeting. John looked me in the eye, smiled, shook my hand as he congratulated me on being the new race director. Although I hadn’t planned for that responsibility, it was unfamiliar territory and I certainly didn’t have any experience in directing anything let alone directing a running race, I nervously accepted the challenge. Why? Because I didn’t want the race to “die”. I have a strong passion and love for running but also for the community of Schoolcraft (including the Independence Day celebration). Although the work that goes into it is very time consuming, it has been an incredible experience to be involved in something like this that has such a healthy/positive impact on others. Being able to give back to the community of Schoolcraft as well as the running community by helping to keep this 4th of July holiday tradition alive and running is the reason that I have kept doing it…10 years later.
The proceeds of this event are directly donated back to the community of Schoolcraft to the Schoolcraft Athletic Boosters, Band, PTO and running programs as well as the Schoolcraft 4th of July celebration (to help pay for the fireworks).
I haven’t been able to find the exact year that the 4th of July race started but have been told that it dates back to the 1970s. When I took it over in 2006, I renamed it “Schoolcraft Firecracker 5-miler”. During the first few years of directing the race, the number of registered runners kept increasing each year so in 2008 I changed the start/finish location from the middle school to the high school. I loved the uniqueness of the distance (five miles) and the course, so those remained the same. The last few years we had close to 500 participants in the 5 mile and 75+ runners in the fun run. We also had runners from 9 different states other than Michigan participate in the race.
We have a group of awesome volunteers, especially on race day, that have helped make this even more successful and possible: Rita and Tom Broekema, Julie and Dan Reisner, Charlie Paradine, and Scott Taylor to name a few. I can’t go without thanking Mac Sports Timing, Schoolcraft schools, Schoolcraft Police Department, Kalamazoo County Sheriffs Department and the Reserves, our generous sponsors … and so many more!