Kooky race to color bomb Zippity Doo Dah in March

>> The Color Me Rad race, which started this year, will hit Jackson next March 23 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. It will serve as a chaotic addition to the Zippity Doo Dah Parade whose Sweet Potato Queens have become a Fondren staple in the three years since they broke away from the Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade.

When Zoloft and balloon animals can’t seem to raise your spirits, the best way to brighten your life is to run Color Me Rad 5K.

That’s the sales pitches Color Me Rad organizers use to draw participants to their 5K that’s part exercise and part color explosion.

The race, which started this year, will hit Jackson next March 23 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. It will serve as a chaotic addition to the Zippity Doo Dah Parade whose Sweet Potato Queens have become a Fondren staple in the three years since they broke away from the Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade.

The idea is basic: Five clumps of people line the course and douse the runners with colored corn starch as they pass. At the finish line sits a crowd waiting to detonate a “color bomb” that combines the five colors. By the time the race is over, runners are a starchy mixture of blue, green, pink, purple and yellow.

“The idea kind of came from India’s colorful holy festivals,” said Color Me Rad spokesperson Scott Ward. “It’s a lighthearted fun run. It gets people out that normally don’t run. It’s more of a social event than anything, and it gives people a good reason to get dirty.”

This is the first year Color Me Rad has had a full slate of races in the U.S. and Canada. The rest of 2012 is booked, and Ward said the goal is to double the number of races in 2013, to around 60.

Each race has a charity partner that is given some of the proceeds from the event. How much that is depends on how much help (with things like volunteer labor) the charities provide. Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children is the Jackson race’s charity partner.

That’s the real purpose behind the race, Ward said. Color Me Rad isn’t the typical road race in which people who view running as a lifestyle measure their progress as part of a serious physical challenge. It’s the opposite.

“We usually get the type that wouldn’t normally run a 5K,” Ward said. “There’s no competitive aspect to it. The race isn’t even timed.”

Ward and organizers are aiming for a minimum of 6,500 participants, he said, and could probably handle as many as 10,000. The number of runners depends on the venue. For example, Ward said an event in early October in Madison, Wisc., had almost 10,000 runners. Another in Blacksburg, Va., had 6,000.

Ward said race organizers first approached Jackson about the idea of making it one of Color Me Rad’s tour stops, because the city had everything the race needed.

“A couple things got our attention,” Ward said. “The (colleges) were one. We always look for a decent-sized college town. Jackson has a good venue, too, which is a must when you’re talking about that many people.”

Color Me Rad is the second major event Jackson has landed that is a part of the growing alternative sports scene. Warrior Dash debuted at an ATV park in South Jackson last April, drawing more than 10,000 participants and generating north of $1 million in economic impact for the Metro area. That event has already re-upped for next April, with plans to make it a two-day event.

Color Me Rad is the perfect building block for Jackson to become an alternative sporting event destination, said Marika Cackett, spokesperson for the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It’s exactly the kind of thing we’re trying to get here,” she said, adding that its colorfully funky schtick will fit perfectly with the irreverent atmosphere created by the Sweet Potato Queens and their Zippity Doo Dah Parade. “We would love for it to become an annual thing, like it appears Warrior Dash is.”

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