Scenes from a previous Turkey Trot in downtown Springfield
This photo is from a Turkey Trot a few years ago before the pandemic. The race had been held virtually for the past two years but returns to an in-person event this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

A Springfield tradition is back after two years of being held virtual due to the pandemic. 

The 28th annual Turkey Trot 5K will be held Thanksgiving morning in downtown Springfield. 

The 3.1-mile race is open to both elite and amateur runners, as well as walkers, those pushing strollers and those with dogs on leashes.

In recent years (prior to the pandemic) the race would draw around 7,000  participants, making it the largest Thanksgiving 5K race in Missouri. 

One unseasonably warm Thanksgiving, the Springfield Turkey Trot saw more than 9,000 runners and walkers, said Jenny Edwards, spokesperson for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. 

Scenes from a previous Turkey Trot in downtown Springfield
Dogs on leashes are 100 percent allowed to participate in the 28th annual Turkey Trot in downtown Springfield on Thanksgiving morning. (Photo: Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

“The Turkey Trot has endured as a Springfield tradition, and we are very happy and humbly proud about that,” Edwards said. “We think there are reasons it has endured. One is that we are supporting good causes and this is a generous community.”

Proceeds from the event support the Developmental Center of the Ozarks, a nonprofit organization that provides therapies for individuals with disabilities, and the Park Board’s Youth Recreation Scholarship Fund, which helps needy Greene County youth participate in summer camps, sports and other Park Board activities. 

The event also serves as a food drive for Ozarks Food Harvest. Participants are asked to bring five nonperishable food items to donate to Ozarks Food Harvest, which is the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri.

Earn those pumpkin pie calories

It’s also a great way to earn those calories at Thanksgiving dinner, Edwards said. 

Scenes from a past Turkey Trot in downtown Springfield. After two years of being held virtually, the 5K race will be in-person this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

“We are all — if we are lucky — going to eat like pigs on Thanksgiving and then go back and eat some more,” she said, laughing. “It alleviates a little bit of the guilt for folks who are going to indulge if they have a 5K under their belt by 10 in the morning.”

Another reason Edwards believes the race is so popular is that it’s become a tradition for families and friend groups, many of whom have traveled to Springfield for the holiday.

“A lot of families have people visiting from out of town. They have a lot of people of different ages, multi-generational in the same household,” Edwards said. “A house can get to feeling a little small with all those people. So it’s great to be able to go and do this event as a family or as a group of friends and then proceed with your holiday weekend.”

A race for everyone

The Turkey Trot starts in four different waves to allow for all-level runners and walkers.

The first wave — the elite runners — take off at 8 a.m. To start with the elite runners, you must submit a qualifying 5K finishing time from a race within the last 18 months (less than 21 minutes for men and 24 minutes for women). 

Scenes from a past Turkey Trot in downtown Springfield. After two years of being held virtually, the 5K race will be in-person this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

The second wave starts just a few minutes later. This wave is for people who intend to run the entire 3.1 miles, but don’t have an elite-qualifying 5K time to submit. 

“We want to get these two fast groups out first so that they are not delayed or tripping over people who are moving slower,” Edwards said. “Because the majority of our participants in the Turkey Trot are going to walk the race.”

Scenes from a past Turkey Trot in downtown Springfield. After two years of being held virtually, the 5K race will be in-person this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

Strollers and dogs are not allowed in the first two waves. 

The third wave is for people who want to walk the course. Many in this wave will be pushing strollers, dressed in costumes and/or walking in groups.

The fourth wave is for people with dogs on leashes. 

“We try to put the dogs at the very back just for obvious reasons,” Edwards said. “We don’t want people trotting through what dogs leave on the ground.”

Costumes not required, but make it more fun

Especially in the third and fourth wave, many participants don Thanksgiving-themed costumes and hats. 

Edwards said it’s not unusual to see folks dressed as pilgrims or wearing turkey hats. Sometimes pet owners put costumes on their dogs. 

“People wear matching tutus. That is a lot of fun,” she said. “We’ve seen people in dinosaur costumes, which I’m not sure how they are completing the event but you be you.”

Edwards said the costume awards will be done a little differently this year. In the past (pre-Covid) costume awards were given after the race at the award ceremony. 

Scenes from a past Turkey Trot in downtown Springfield. After two years of being held virtually, the 5K race will be in-person this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

But since people finish the race on their own time, often people have gone home before the costumes are judged. This year, people who dress up are asked to post photos on the Turkey Trot’s Facebook page. Whoever gets the most “likes” wins the costume awards, Edwards explained. 

“We think this is more equitable,” she said. “It also shortens the award ceremony which tends to feel long when you are hungry for that Thanksgiving meal you know is waiting for you at home.”

Relatively flat course begins, ends at Expo Center

The following information is from the Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s website:

Online registration is open through 11:59 p.m. Nov. 22. Online transaction fee of up to 13 percent applies.

Or return a paper registration by 5 p.m. Nov. 18. Must be postmarked by Nov. 15

After that, you can also register in person 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 23 or 6-7:15 a.m. Nov. 24 at the Springfield Expo Center, 635 E Saint Louis St. 

Early bird registration through 5 p.m. Nov. 18 is $25 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and under. After that, full price registration is $35 for adults and $30 for kids under 12.

Packet pick-up is 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Springfield Expo Center. 

“If you are not comfortable being in a crowd, and that is totally understandable, you can still do the Turkey Trot,” Edwards said. “Just pick your own place to do a 5K. Be sure to register and pick up your shirt and know that you have done it. And post a photo so that your friends can know that you’ve done it even if you weren’t downtown.”

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald