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A Thanksgiving tradition that gives back

People packed into downtown on Thanksgiving morning for the annual Gobble Gait. The event attracted not only runners, but also hundreds of spectators, thanks to ideal weather. (Star Gazette photo by Chad Richardson)

This year's Gobble Gait event saw downtown Hastings literally packed with people on Thanksgiving morning. The annual Thanksgiving Day run had 3,126 participants this year and raised $126,000 for Hastings Family Service.

"It was extraordinary," said Chris Koop, executive director of Hastings Family Service. "The weather was perfect, so it really brought people out."

Most years, Koop said, runners tend to leave once they cross the finish line. But this year, they stuck around, creating crowds of hundreds of people on the sidelines as others finished the run.

"It was just a fun environment to be in," she said.

This year's event set new records yet again in dollars raised and number of participants, said Mary Fasbender, one of three volunteer organizers of the event.

"We've increased every year by at least $1,000," Fasbender said. "We've never gone backwards."

Given that Gobble Gait last year raised $125,000 and broke the $1 million mark in total dollars raised, organizers expected this year to raise a little less, but that wasn't the case.

"This year they just kept it coming, and it's just such a wonderful thing," Fasbender said.

This year's winner of the 8K race was Nick Ross of Hastings. His time was 26:24. In second place was James Sorenson, also of Hastings.

"Those two continually battle back and forth (for first place)," Fasbender said. "It's kind of fun."

The fastest woman was Kayla Huhnerkoch of Red Wood Falls, with a time of 30:21. The second-fastest woman was Marit Sonnesyn.

This year, 56 percent of participants came from Hastings. Two other countries were also represented; one runner was from Japan and another from Sweden.

The event is the main source of funding for Hastings Family Service. As Gobble Gait approaches its 20th year next year, Koop said she's grateful for the contributions the run has provided for Hastings Family Service.

"It's helped us be more than a bag of food," she said.

Thanks to the efforts of all those involved with Gobble Gait, Hastings Family Service is able to respond better to the changing needs of the people it serves.

"We are just a stronger organization because Gobble Gait has partnered with us," Koop said.

Gobble Gait is organized by three local volunteers: Fasbender, Jay Kochendorfer and Brian Radke.

"Mary, Jay and Brian work their tails off," Koop said. "... it's physically, emotionally and mentally a lot of work, and we thank them so much."

Fasbender said that the Gobble Gait team is already getting started on planning for next year's 20th event and they have some good ideas. She also expressed thanks to all the Gobble Gait sponsors, without whom the run would not be possible. And of course, she thanked the community, "from the volunteers to the city to participants — that's what makes this event successful, exciting, traditional (and) all the good things," she said.

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