The 124th Annual Old Settlers Weekend

Runners line up at the start line of the 5K race under the American Flag on July 27. // Photo by Mia Amis

By Mia Amis

On July 27 at 8 a.m., people began lining up to register and check in for the Ferndale Old Settler’s 2019 L.E.F.T. 5 kilometer race and 2 mile walk.

The 5 kilometer community run is an event held annually since the Tunnel to Towers Foundation was established. This foundation was created to honor the life of firefighter Stephen Siller, who sacrificed himself to save others on Sept. 11, 2001, in addition to  current military according to its website.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation got its name from the route that Siller ran in order to get to the collapsing towers, as explained on the website

The Ferndale Police Association, which was formed in 2014, help organize this event every year since 2011, as stated by its website.

“Anything we can do to keep helping this community,” Kevin Turner, the Ferndale police chief, said. “It’s good community involvement.”

This year, the run was coupled with the Ferndale Old Settler’s Association’s event Pioneer Days. 

“This is [also] the first year it’s been timed… so, it’s very exciting for us,” Kim Martin, the coordinator of the event, said.

According to Turner, they were expecting about 20,000 people to show up for Pioneer Days.

The Picnic at Pioneer Park, also known as Pioneer Days, has been a tradition in Whatcom County for over a century, according to its website. Its purpose is to celebrate the history of the area and the people who call it home. 

In addition to Pioneer Days, the Ferndale Heritage Society volunteers open the park’s historic cabins for public viewing, as stated by its website. 

The whole weekend was filled with live music, including a performance from Chris Anderson, a musician from Eatonville. 

All of these events come together to form the Old Settlers Weekend which runs from July 26 to July 28. This is the 124th year the Old Settlers Weekend has run and is the longest continually running annual picnic in the state of Washington.

Parked in a field, adjacent to the running route, was a large, black, armored police rescue and response vehicle. The two back doors were swung open and kids were crawling inside to check out the interior of the vehicle, with supervision.

The police department brings out the vehicle as an attraction, Turner said. The kids love to climb in and see what’s going on in there.

The run began at 9 a.m. with the walk starting five minutes later. 

According to Mark Blake, the timer of the event, there were 106 people registered for running and approximately 50 people walking. Only those running the 5 kilometers were timed.

The fastest time was 19 minutes and 11 seconds from Alma McMurtry, Blake said. 

The event featured multiple booths complete with local food and craft vendors, a car show and the Old Settler’s Grand Parade which started at 11 a.m., and was the second parade of the weekend, the first being the Junior Parade on July 26.

The parade began at Washington Street and Golden Eagle Drive in Ferndale. After about one-eighth of a mile, the parade ended at Pioneer Park, where the other festivities were taking place.

A few of these booths were sponsors of the event, such as Team Gotta, an NRA approved club,  and Capstone, a physical therapy organization.

“Lots of patients mentioned [the event],” Alyssa Franzen, manager of the Ferndale Capstone branch, said. “We are providing pre- and post-race stretching [for the runners and walkers].”

Franzen also mentioned that they were there in case any injuries occurred while on the route, as many of them have trained as physical therapists for almost ten years.

This is a chance to “give back to the community,” Franzen said. “We love to help out.”

At the registration and check-in area, they had bottles of water and Gatorade set out for after the race, along with apples and bananas.

The main event is a fundraiser, Martin said. It’s needed for different youth organizations, including the Ferndale Boys and Girls Club, Matt Herzog Foundation and Chief for a Day.

“We’re getting more and more volunteers every year,” Martin said.

According to Martin, there are about 120 more people participating in the race and walk this year than last.

WECU had checkpoints stationed throughout the walking and running route to cheer people on, Martin said. 

As the runners came to the end of the route, which was also the starting point, the volunteers and sponsors nearby cheered them on. The crowd got bigger as each one encouraged the next to join them across the finish line.

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