Madison College’s Turkey Trot gets a new beginning


Photo provided to The Clarion

Runners start the Festival Foods Turkey Trot in 2019 in Madison. This year, runners will participate “from home”.

Eimy Gonzalez, Staff Writer

After 33 years, Madison College has decided to pass on their Turkey Trot event to fully concentrate on the needs of the students. This upcoming thanksgiving morning you can still enjoy the outdoors and the thrill of a satisfying run or walk, however, now by the organization of Festival Foods. 

The beloved cross-country Turkey Trot hosted by Madison College had its start on 1986 as a cross country invitational. As the years passed the cross-country team faded but the event kept its course. What began as a race for students turned into a community gathering, inviting the population to run, have fun, and share great memories. The event which took place on Warner Park drew up to 700 runners. 

Jason Verhelst, the sports director, and organizer of the Turkey Trot mentions that the department wanted to focus on the fitness and wellness needs of the students. Now, as they are working on new projects that everyone within the college can enjoy, hosting an event of such magnitude would take some of their focus away from that. As a result, they were ready to let it go and find it a new home. 

Madison College Turkey Trot had been a fundraising event to benefit Thursday’s child, a local organization which makes dreams come true for terminally ill children at no cost, as well as the Madison College foundation. Because of this, it was important to direct the runners to an equally ethical race. Festival Foods benefits the boy’s and girl’s club and the YMCA with their event and have donated more than $2,920,000 in the past 12 years. 

“I will miss taking part of the organization, but I think it’s in good hands with Festival Foods. Their Turkey trot benefits two great charities, so I feel good. If we would not have found a place for our runners to go, it would have been harder for me,” Comments Verhelst. 

So, what can the runners expect as they transition to a new event? Festival Food’s Turkey Trot will take a different approach this year. In an effort to keep all the runners safe, they have launched the first Home edition. “People are virtual out; they hear everything is going virtual and at this point no one knows what this word really means anymore. This is not a virtual event or a plan B, this is a home edition […] Our main goal is to keep the tradition alive, getting the family together, being healthy, and raising money for the YMCA and the boys and girls club.” States John Stiloski, Community Involvement Specialist for Festival Foods, and part of the core planning team for the Turkey Trot.

This edition has been well planned out throughout the year. Festival Foods, as a sponsor, has witnessed the transition of other events due to the pandemic. With this kind of research, they have put together a plan to make of this race, as equally exciting and fun, if not more, than the events from previous years.

Once signed up, the race package will be delivered at the door of each runner. It consists of a long-sleeved Turkey Trot shirt, a Festival Foods Buff, coupons, an 8-inch pumpkin pie, more prizes, and a chance to win a 2020 Subaru Crosstrek. 

So far there has been a positive response from the public and the organization is feeling good about the amount that will be donated this year. Stiloski states that they look forward to raising as much funds as they have in the past. He mentions how this year the YMCA as well as boys and girls club have been struggling from not having their normal fundraisers. As an addition to the event by means to support their mission there is a silent auction which began Oct.16 and ends on Nov. 23 at 12 a.m. All proceeds will benefit these two charities. To participate in the auction and take part of this noble cause, you can visit 

Make sure to get involved and keep the Madison College spirit alive within The Festival Food’s Turkey trot. You can participate in the 5-mile run or the 2-mile walk starting from home to your destination of choice. Make sure to tag Festival Foods on your social media and add the #FestivalFoodsTurkeyTrot and #KeepTheTraditionAlive to be featured. Registration is now open. To sign up and for more information visit