Candyland half marathon, 5K returns for 2021

Published 7:30 am Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Candyland Christmas Half Marathon and 5K was missed in 2020, but organizers are excited to return this year on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 a.m. in Andalusia.

Jennifer O’Neal and her husband Darrin were joined by a few other individuals looking to see the Christmas in Candyland festivities from a different perspective.

“We were in a local civic organization and looking for a fundraiser since we had organized other 5K races. Most small towns do not have runs this lengthy as they are normally found in larger cities. We fell in love with Christmas in Candyland and were sure runners and walkers would love strolling through our beautiful city all dressed up for Christmas. People come from all over the United States to participate,” O’Neal said.

The Andalusia Kiwanis Club picked up the event as sponsors two years ago and focused on youth. “We directed our focus toward the local schools’ running teams. This race has been mostly created by runners. As runners, we think it is important for the students to have these programs in their schools. These teams are underfunded in our area, and our passion is to help the coaches with their expenses. That way, students can continue competing,” she said.

The event first began in 2015, and this year marks the sixth annual showing. O’Neal said the race has grown every year since its inception.

“Our biggest year to date was in 2019 with 300 registered runners. As a race, we have put $20,000 into these teams in 2018 and 2019. The number of participants has varied from year to year, but we see an increase in numbers each go around.”

Both routes will have routes covering multiple locations. Areas for the half marathon include River Falls Street, South Three Notch Street, Tisdale Street, the area around Johnson Park, Lindsey Bridge Road, Green Acres, East Three Notch Street, and around Andalusia High School. “It’s hard to get 13.1 miles within Andalusia city limits,” O’Neal said. “The 5K will be contained to Church Street, River Falls Street, and the Court Square.”

Adult participants will be permitted to sign up until the day of the race at https://register.chronotrack.com/r/60770. The cost is $35 for the 5K and $50 for the half marathon. Prices will increase to $40 and $55 on race day. Student runners will only pay $20 for either event. There will be a 1-mile fun run for children that is free to enter. Each child will receive a medal. Those choosing to fill out a paper form can visit Andalusia City Hall Friday, Dec. 3 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. or from 5:30 to 7:15 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.

There are six different sponsorship levels: patron, bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and grand benefactor. All net proceeds will be presented to school coaches in January. “These funds will be used for equipment, uniforms, and travel expenses. We will be joined by six teams: Florala, Kinston, Opp, Pleasant Home, Red Level, and Straughn,” she said.

Contributions from most local businesses and volunteers help make the event a yearly success.

“We want to give the runners a fun and safe event. Many of our runners come for the weekend and enjoy the Candyland festivities. With our race, there is something for everyone in the family. We rely on 100 plus volunteers to run this race smoothly. We are grateful to the City of Andalusia, Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce, city and county law enforcement, and LBWCC for supplying student volunteers,” O’Neal said. “It takes an entire community to put on this event.”

She added the goal is to raise the most money possible to back into the schools that are running teams. “We want participants to see our city to be the outgoing, family-oriented, and beautiful place it is.”

Awards will be given out in all major categories and by age group. New this year will be two gingerbread awards for the fastest male and female. All participants who complete the race will receive a finisher’s medal. In addition, organizers will award a best costume for male and female. The best water station will also receive an award.

For more information call Jennifer O’Neal at 334-488-6333, Charlotte Petre at 912-552-2831, or Candice Vinson at 334-343-0073.

“We are so grateful to our many sponsors, some of which have plugged in every year since this race has been in existence. Please come help us kick off Christmas in Candyland with our half marathon and 5K,” O’Neal said.