Indianapolis News and HeadlinesIndianapolis local news


Thanksgiving tradition: Drumstick Dash 2020 still running

But many changes due to COVID
Posted at 8:00 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 20:00:56-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The traditional “Drumstick Dash” will still be running this year. The race, held every Thanksgiving morning in downtown Indianapolis by Wheeler Mission, is moving forward despite the rising COVID-19 cases.

“It is such a tradition not just for in the running community, but I think for the Indianapolis community,” says Steve Kerr, the Wheeler Mission executive vice president of advancement.

“It’s more critical this year to have this event because it does raise critical funds for those experiencing homelessness. And our numbers, we’re seeing high numbers already early in the season.”

The Drumstick Dash was started 18-years ago to raise awareness and funds for services to the homeless.

Because of the pandemic, the executive vice president of advancement says they’ve had to expand their shelter space. The city’s opened two hotels to serve as overflow shelters during the winter. Wheeler Mission has had to hire additional staff to manage them.

We asked, “People might be wondering how can you socially distance when you’re at a race?”

According to Kerr, “We are marking off on the start line areas where we feel people should stand. And we’ll have constant announcements from the stage and from the Jumbotron to maintain social distance, stay in your family bubbles.”

Race leaders ensure they’ve taken the proper safety precautions so everyone feels safe this year. They had to submit a risk mitigation plan to the health department and worked with them to get approval. Grown to become the 50th largest running event in the country, the race typically registers about 20,000 people a year.

“This year we are reducing it where we will only have 20% capacity at our course this year,” says Kerr. “And different this year is two different start times. An 8am and a 10am. And we’re limiting those two start times to only 3,000 people and that will give everybody there about 12 ft.² of area to social distance at the start line.”

People can start or arrive whenever they want to in order to avoid crowds. As long as you wear a chip, your time will count.

“We will not have a water station, and at the end of the race where most people would go through Food Court and grab a banana and a snack, this year everything will be prepackaged,” says Kerr. “So they’ll grab one packet and then be encouraged to head back home and be with their families. So very low contact. Very safe event that we feel we are going to be able to operate this year.”

And of course, masks are required at all times except while running.

“When you cross the finish line, we are encouraging everybody to mask up. It’s just for safety’s sake. No contact. We will not have our normal activities out there with high-fiving from our mascot,” Kerr says. “It’s going to be much more low-key. But we still think a very important event for our community.”