They love their colors in Hollister—the golden yellow of the Denver omelette at the Cozy Cup Café, the kelly green and candied orange of the Johnny’s mural at Wentz Alley, the red of the brake lights in morning traffic on Highway 25.
But even the red-hot, true-blue color lovers in Hollister might not be ready for what’s in store for their retinas on Saturday, July 28.
On that day, the Hollister Recreation division will host the first Wild Color 5K run, which, as its title indicates, is a celebration of both family-friendly exercise and the joys of pure color.
The event will feature runners (joggers and walkers, too) as they navigate a course in which vivid colors in the form of powdered cornstarch will be hurled at them, turning each participant into a ghostly figure of purple, orange and magenta. Then after crossing the finish line, if you’re not already sufficiently resembling a Teletubby, you can go a bit more crazy with a post-race party of color insanity.
“If you do the whole 3.1 miles, then you’ll be doused with color five times.” That’s how Hollister Recreation special events coordinator Jennifer Rodriguez explains it. “Then, after the race, there will be a fun color throw. Everybody gets a bag of color. There’s a countdown and everyone gets to throw a color up in the air.”
Color runs and other events using powdered color are not a new phenomenon. They’ve been popular in various sites around the U.S. for at least a decade. They are inspired by an ancient Hindu ritual in India known as Holi, a religious festival celebrating the coming of spring. A national holiday in India and Nepal, Holi is characterized by the ecstatic throwing of colors and colored water on every person and surface in sight.
Traditionally, the colors have often been naturally colored substances such as turmeric, indigo or beetroot. But in recent years, an entire rainbow of possibilities have opened up with the widespread use of natural and synthetic pigments.
In the west, that has often meant colored cornstarch, which is considered largely nontoxic and easy to manage when it comes to cleanup. Possible health risks from inhaling particulate matter and even incidents involving flammability of the materials have raised concerns. But that hasn’t stopped the ritual throwing of colors to be used in hundreds events around the world, including Holi festivals in the United States, musical festivals and other color-run events.
Rodriguez, who has herself participated in color runs in other communities, said that her department had been trying to attract a color-run event to Hollister for the past three years. But event coordinators found that the population base in San Benito County was large enough to support an event. This time, Hollister found a willing partner in the Marin County-based company Titanium Racing, which manages several running events around Northern California including the Tiburon Half-Marathon, the Marin Turkey Trot and the Great Santa Run (as in Santa Claus) in San Francisco every December.
Titanium’s CEO Jason Jacobson said that, more and more, people are looking for events with a broader appeal or an element of fun. “You have to stay new and innovative,” he said, adding that you have to ask yourself, “Is there some sort of spin you can maybe put on an event to make it more experiential and new? That’s especially important for younger people and millennials. That’s what they’re looking for.”
On race day, July 28, things get started early in hopes of avoiding the hottest part of the day. The start of the timed 5K will be at 8am, with the start of the untimed color run coming at 8:30am. The starting line is north of town near the Hollister Municipal Airport.
Titanium Racing and the city of Hollister will combine forces to bring in a crew of about 50 people to manage the race, hand out water and make sure all participants get sufficiently rainbow-colored. Jacobson said that runners will first get doused with color at the starting line and then with specific colors at markers along the course. That way, you can tell exactly how far each runner got in the race by the number colors they happen to be wearing. “When you come back at the end of the race with your group of friends,” said Hollister’s Rodriguez, “you want to make sure you’re the one with every color of the rainbow. Then, it shows, yeah, I did the whole course.”
Rodriguez said the Wild Color run is a fundraiser to establish a new youth program in Hollister. For several years, Hollister has been part of the Junior Giants program, which provides baseball and softball activities aimed at kids ages 5-14. She said proceeds from the Wild Color run will go toward bringing the similar Junior Warriors basketball program to Hollister. “The whole reason we’re doing this is not only to promote health and wellness in our community, but also all the money we make is going directly back into youth activities.”
Race registration is $30 per person, $45 for two people, and $25 per person in a family or team of three or more. Registration gets you a T-shirt, a medal, a bib number and a bag of powdered color for the after-race color toss.
Event coordinators suggest that runners concerned about the colors getting in their eyes or mouths might want to bring goggles and/or bandanas. Runners are encouraged to bring old towels to cover the interior of their cars. The dyes in the colored cornstarch mostly washes out from clothing, but, say event coordinators, you might get some staining, so don’t wear your Sunday best.
As for the post-race clean-up, it makes sense that some residents of Hollister might think that their city will end up looking like one gigantic Grateful Dead T-shirt. Jason Jacobson of Titanium Racing said that a big part of the job of his company is make sure that he leaves Hollister as clean as he found it.
Cleanup, he said, begins with machines similar to leaf blowers to take care of the excess color powder on the ground. “It’s a two-stage process. We blow as much of it off the ground as we can before we do any kind of water cleanup.”
“It comes right off in the shower,” said Rodriguez of the colors. “It’s biodegradable, environmentally friendly. And at the end, the streets are Disneyland clean.”
Wild Color 5K
Saturday, July 28, 8 am
Start and finish line at 2360 Technology Parkway, Hollister
Packet pick-up for pre-registration July 24-26, 1-5pm. Community Center, Hollister Recreation, 300 West St.
Online registration: hollisterwildcolor5krun.com