Hundreds of people set out into the crisp autumn air on Thursday morning and descended on Murphys Community Park for the return of the annual Klassen Klassic Turkey Trot. It was the family-oriented event’s 14th run since its inception, and the first since last year’s cancellation due to safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

A handful of people gathered at the park at the 8 a.m. start of registration, joined by hundreds more as the 9 a.m. start of the run drew near. Just before heading to the starting line, the enthusiastic crowd warmed up with some exercises led by Kat Juarez from the park’s gazebo, as energetic music blared from a speaker nearby. Participants chose either a 2.5-mile route or a 5-mile route.

In lieu of a traditional registration process, participants were asked to donate nonperishable food items at a table for the Murphys Senior Center and Food Pantry, and to buy commemorative t-shirts with the event’s name printed on the front, and the names of local sponsors printed on the back. The t-shirts were sold at a table for $25 each, or $40 for two of them.

Proceeds from the sale of the t-shirts, as well as donation money collected in a jar at the table, will go to the Feeney Park Foundation, the nonprofit organization which runs and maintains Feeney Park. The arts and sports complex, which is the only one of its kind in Calaveras County, has an amphitheater, an eighteen hole disc golf course, a skate park, and baseball and soccer fields. It relies completely on the hard work and generosity of community members.

“We do not have any public support for the park,” said Feeney Park Foundation board member Susan Lyneis. “It’s all done by events.”

Events like Mr. Frog’s Wild Ride, the annual springtime bike ride in Murphys, which also was cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

It was the loss of financial support from these events, and also personal connections to the park through the family’s own participation in sports leagues, which led the Klassen family to choose to support Feeney Park through this year’s Turkey Trot.

“It’s a place that’s near and dear to them because they’ve done soccer, and they’ve done little league,” said Lyneis. “They’re community-minded people.”

The Klassen Klassic Turkey Trot is an unofficial event, and its humble beginnings go back to 2008 when Brian Klassen and a group of local runners decided to get together and go for a run on Thanksgiving morning. In 2009, Klassen’s daughter Sally, at the time a student at Bret Harte Union High School, took the run on as her senior project.

“That’s when it became what it is today with sponsors, and with people that we donate to,” said Brian Klassen.

According to Klassen, the Turkey Trot has collected tons of nonperishable food, and it has raised close to $50,000 for families and other entities in need in the community over the years.

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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