Running strong: 2020 Watermelon Stampede to go on

Runners racing in the 2019 Watermelon Stampede.

MUSCATINE, Iowa– A long standing late summer tradition, the Muscatine Running Club plans to hold their annual Watermelon Stampede this August in downtown Muscatine. Though the races will look somewhat different from years past, the club hopes to satisfy runners’ itch to race in a safe and enjoyable way.

For the past five years, competitors in the Watermelon Stampede have worn a tracker on their shoe to calculate their individual time. This feature will allow for a “waved start” this year, in which small groups of runners will start at different times throughout the morning. Because each runner’s tracker records the time it takes them to go from the starting carpet to the finish line, race officials will still have the information they need to determine each age group’s winner without having such a crowd.

Along with using a waved start to allow runners to social distance, the Watermelon Stampede will have other safety procedures in place. These will include asking participants to wear masks when not running, having masked and gloved volunteers assist with the race, and providing only sealed bottled water and prepackaged snacks available to runners. The Running Club will make hand sanitizer readily available to anyone who needs it.

“The environment will be the same, just with modifications to make it as safe as possible,” said Muscatine Running Club member Dell Wagner. As in years past, winners of their age group will all get free watermelons, as will several lucky drawing winners.

The Children’s Watermelon Stampede will also go on this year. As in the past, it will take place at the Muscatine High School track. Winners will receive watermelons and all participants will receive a commemorative ribbon or medal. For everyone’s safety and comfort, spectators should social distance whenever possible.

The Children’s Watermelon Stampede will take place Aug. 14 and the Watermelon Stampede proper will take place Aug. 15. Registration has opened on the Muscatine Running Club’s website and will continue through the day of the race with registration costing $10 for children, $20 for early adult registrations, and $25 beginning Aug. 11.

With races canceled in Davenport and neighboring counties, Wagner believed many area runners may sign up, thankful for an opportunity to test out their skills in competition. However, Wagner emphasized that people should register only if they feel comfortable with the COVID-19 safety measures the club took, as they hope all participants will have a good time.

As race day approaches, Wagner thanked Hy-Vee for their in-kind sponsorship of water and snacks and Muscatine Center for Social Actions for graciously allowing runners to use their restrooms. With the help of many in the community, the Muscatine Running Club hopes for another fun and safe year of road racing.