Flint Fire & Ice Festival, Crim Run Your Ice Off 5K aim to keep people downtown

FLINT, MI — Downtown Flint will host its second annual Fire & Ice Festival this weekend, but for the first time, participants will have a chance to exercise after scarfing down at the event’s chili cook-off.

The festival begins at noon, and as it ends at 4 p.m., hundreds of runners will head over to Kearsley and Wallenberg streets to participate in the Crim Run Your Ice Off 5K.

Andrew Younger, Crim Festival of Races race director, said the idea for Run Your Ice Off came from Crim organizers wanting to bring a winter race to Flint to promote year-round fitness. They planned to add the event to the Crim Grassroots Race Series, which “is based on the idea that people should have fun and easy ways to be active, and not have it cost a lot of money,” Younger said.

Logistics prevented a nighttime race, but they thought an afternoon race could work. They remembered last year’s inaugural Flint Fire & Ice Festival, which started 2013 strong with about 2,000 people downtown.

Younger wanted to collaborate with the Flint Downtown Development Authority, which is organizing the festival, to have the two events intertwine and keep them downtown for the rest of the evening.

“We thought it’d be a great opportunity for people to come down early, have fun and enjoy the festival, maybe get some chili in their belly,” Younger said, “and right around 4 p.m., that’s the perfect time to enjoy the race. Then have some hot chocolate, and come back downtown to enjoy the restaurants.”

For the race, the Downtown Development Authority gave Crim access to the Flint River Trail, which Younger praised for giving Genesee County residents natural resources right in the middle of the city.

The main issue for the race is safety. Younger said weather should be on their side, with the forecast high temperature of 31 and a low chance of precipitation. But with the run going on in the winter, there is risk of ice. He said Crim will make sure the race route is salted, and that volunteers will be on hand to scout for hazardous areas.

Younger said the race capped participation at 350 people, and said that amount sold out in January.

“It says a lot about the running culture in Flint. People are looking for opportunities to get together and meet with other runners outside,” he said. “One other thing that excites me, a very large number, at least two-thirds, of the participants who registered are coming from cities outside of Flint. There’s a great core, but there are also a lot of people who are coming into the city from other parts of Gensee County.”

Outside of the race, the Fire & Ice Festival is picking up where it left off last year. Gerard Burnash, executive director of Flint DDA, said that many of the 2,000-plus people who attended the first Fire & Ice Festival were families. To address that, he added a complimentary horsedrawn carriage ride and an ice bowling alley for kids.

“I think this event, more than our other ones, was family centered. This year, we got a focus on families and put in something to keep kids occupied,” he said. “Kids love the horses, and parents like when they can all do something together.”

The festival will return with ice carving, fire dancers, and a chili cook-off between area cooks and restaurants. Burnash is expecting attendance similar to last year, and said that the race and the festival should help each other.

“This time of year, people are looking for something to do,” he said. “It’s been a while since the holiday, and people are looking for something to do outside of the house. I think they’re complimentary events.”

Original article by William E. Ketchum III for MLive.
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