SportsEvents Magazine

JAN 2018

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January 2018 28 SPORTS EVENTS TO WATCH IN 2018 There are countless elements that make an event rise to the next level, but none outrank the ability to make a memorable impression. These events were voted as the best by our readers. During the first year, the Santa Hustle Race Series in Chicago attracted 1,000 runners and drew national media attention when the Rachel Ray Show promoted the whimsical hol- iday-themed event where runners wear Santa hats, shirts, and beards while enjoying cookies, holiday music and candy. The volunteers also dress like elves. Today the event has spread across the country and brings thousands of runners and spectators to brave the cold while spreading the cheer. "We wanted to create something different and cool for the community. We said, 'why don't we dress like Santa and have a fun holiday event?' said Aaron Del Mar, founder and CEO of Palatine, Ill.-based Adrenaline Sports Manage- ment, a company Del Mar founded in 2008 to create sports events, like the Santa Hustle. "Rachel Ray reached out and then we were featured on the Travel Channel's cool things to do. We've now taken the concept on the road nationwide. "It's not a run, it's an experience," "The Santa Hustle is one of 20 events we hold nationwide and in 2017 we were in eight cities. It's a cool community event that includes a 5K and a half marathon." Although it's a USA Track and Field sanc- tioned event, Del Mar said 95 percent of run- ners participate because it is fun. "When you're dressed in a Santa hat and shirt with Christmas music playing and eating cookies and candy, it's just going to be fun. We have candy stations along the route and we provide milk and cook- ies at the end. Finishers receive a Flava-Flav-like finisher medal and after a 30 to 45-minute race, participants walk away feeling like they've had an experience. It is an experience. There are funny signs along the route and people are running, walking or jogging and along the way there are trivia stations and other interactive stations to keep them entertained." It's that kind of creativity and a desire to be different that has created success for not just the Santa Hustle, but also for other running events such as the Halloween Hustle and an event features donuts. Del Mar said his com- pany works closely with convention and visitors' bureaus in each race area to make the races and the entire event enjoyable for participants and specta- tors alike. The Santa Hustle also gives back to each community by selecting charitable organizations. "The charity component is important and it drives donations and volunteers to serve the local community," Del Mar said. "We also choose cities with a strong sports market and who are willing to work with us on road closures, traffic flow and all our other needs. It's a challenging event to work with, so we need a strong CVB with a good working relationship with the city to make introductions for us." Growing from 1,000 runners in the first Santa Hustle in Chicago, the race now draws about 8,500 runners and more than 1,500 spectators to brave the chilly, windy weather during the Christmas holiday season with races happening from Thanksgiving weekend to Christmas. While the race series launched in Chicago, it has now expanded to Milwaukee, (Wis.), Indianapolis (Ind.), Sevierville, (Tenn.), South Portland, (Maine), Galveston, (Texas), Sandusky (Ohio), Newport, and Glendale (Ariz,). "We are expanding and looking at other cit- ies such as Columbia, S.C., Oklahoma City, Okla., and Henderson, Nev.," he said. "We choose areas where strong CVBs have the right mix for our business model. This is our eighth year in Glendale and we've been in Tennessee for six or seven years. In Galveston, we had 6,000 runners and 1,500 spectators for a $3 or $4 million economic impact during the week we were there. We also make a strong social impact in the cities where we hold events. In Galveston, for instance, we gave back to the food banks that were affected by the hurricanes. Giving back to a city to say thank you for having us is important," he said. Adrenaline Sports Management also looks for destinations and venues that offer the right atmosphere. In Sandusky, the Santa Run is held at Cedar Point, the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. While the park is closed for the winter, the Santa Hustle runs through the amusement park giving runners a unique venue perspec- tive. And in Galveston, half of the half marathon runs along the famous sea wall while the other half goes through the Moody Gardens during the Festival of Lights. "In Chicago, we start at Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears, and we run along the Lake- front on Lake Michigan on the Magnificent Mile and end at Navy Pier," Del Mar said. "The cool thing about the Santa Hustle is that we want to create a tradition and we want each race to be a creative and a fun-filled experience." In addition to the Santa Hustle, Adrenaline Sports Management also owns the Bunny Hop 5K in Chicago, the Wisconsin Dells Monster Dash 5K and the Halloween Hustle 5K in Palatine. "The Donut Dash 5K sponsored by Stan's Donuts, a Chicago-based bakery is one of those races where you get to eat donuts all along the course and at the finish line," he said. "Who doesn't want to burn off some energy while eating donuts?" n The Santa Hustle Aaron Del Mar Founder and CEO Adrenaline Sports Management

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