Jingle Jog set for Thursday

On Thursday, a barrage of Christmas spirit will sweep down Lawrence’s Massachusetts Street.

Every year, members of the community workout group led by Don “Red Dog” Gardner celebrate the season by donning festive garb and holiday lights and run through downtown.

This year’s event, which is open to anyone, begins at 6 p.m. in the parking lot behind Kizer-Cummings, 833 Mass. The run, which is about a mile, loops runners along Massachusetts from Sixth Street to South Park.

“I can always stand there at Kizer-Cummings and tell where they are at by all the horn honks,” Gardner said.

Gardner is best known for the summer workouts he leads at Memorial Stadium, guiding hundreds of Lawrence residents through sit-ups, pushups, runs, sprints and other forms of exercise.

Laura Dahnert proposed the Jingle Jog nearly a decade ago. She got the idea from a running group in Kansas City that would run from bar to bar decked out in holiday lights.“I thought the idea of running in Christmas lights and tying jingle bells to your shoes sounded like a blast,” said Dahnert, who also admits to being prone to throwing theme parties.

The Red Dog group decided to spread the joy downtown and picked Thursday night, when stores are open later.

“I thought she was crazy. But it has turned out to be a really great thing,” Gardner said about the idea.

Runners come decked in ornaments, tinsel, Santa hats, reindeer antlers and elf costumes.During several runs, Dahnert has dressed as Santa. Of course, as a runner, she doesn’t quite have the traditional Santa build, so she has to pull the belt extra tight.

“There’s lots of silliness,” Dahnert said.

Along with spreading holiday cheer, the group passes around a velvet red stocking to raise money for local nonprofits. This year, money will be raised for Toys for Tots and the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence.

Gardner said the event is for runners or walkers. Well-behaved dogs are allowed, and young children are encouraged to come. Afterward, treats will be served, and the group will visit downtown drinking establishments.

Red Dog Days participants run along Massachusetts Street during the annual Jingle Bell Jog, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. Dressed in their best holiday gear, the group made a quick pass through downtown, collected some money for charity and then gathered for food and drinks.

Red Dog Days participants run along Massachusetts Street during the annual Jingle Bell Jog, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. Dressed in their best holiday gear, the group made a quick pass through downtown, collected some money for charity and then gathered for food and drinks. by Mike Yoder

Tagged: Jingle Jog, Red Dog

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