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Drumstick Dash Returns To Downtown, Celebrates 17 Years

Downtown Roanoke was the site of the 17th annual, Thanksgiving morning Drumstick Dash, a key fundraiser for the Roanoke Rescue Mission. After the Covid epidemic and resultant lock-downs, this year’s run marked the first time in three years the race returned to the Star City.

With the theme of “move your feet so others can eat,” the event attracted 7,539 registered runners and walkers and raised some $300,000 for the Christian ministry to provide meals, housing, and other kinds of care for the homeless members of our community. It is the largest fund-raiser of the year for the ministry.

With a brisk morning temperature around freezing, the crowd gathered near the corner of Williamson and Franklin Roads for the start. Runners were asked to self-segregate into “corrals” based on their estimated finish times. That way, faster runners were at the start while those who planned to run at a more leisurely pace were nearer the back and need not fear blocking anyone’s way.

As the minutes ticked down to the 8:30 start, the emcee welcomed everyone, gave instructions, and included a quotation of Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” The emcee also thanked members of the Roanoke City Police, Sheriff’s Office, Roanoke County Police, and Salem Police for helping provide oversight and security for the event. The crowd was then led in a prayer for the day, and after Mayor Sherman Lea delivered himself of some welcoming remarks, he fired the starting gun at 8:30 sharp and the runners were off. 

Fans, supporters, and other walkers then shuffled along as the runners disappeared down the road.

The 5k (3.1 mile) course zigzagged through Downtown Roanoke, going as far as the Transportation Museum and included a number of tough hills to climb.

The finish line was on South Jefferson Street, in front of the historic Patrick Henry Hotel. With loudspeakers playing contemporary Christian music courtesy of Spirit FM, onlookers gathered to cheer on the runners and meet up with loved ones as they crossed the finish line.

Top male and female finishers on the 5-kilometer course were Roger Hopper of Chesapeake, with a time of 15 minutes, 56.5 seconds and Alyssa Vassalo, at 17:58.3. For full race results, visit

Although the event attracts serious, competitive runners, the occasion also had a jubilant, relaxed, festive air. Families and groups of friends or colleagues ran together, and spontaneous meet-ups of old friends happened frequently. There was a great variety of ages involved: some appeared to be elementary-aged children up to people with gray hair. Many walked their dogs and a number pushed baby strollers.

Annie Lin of Salem and her son Jerry got into the Thanksgiving spirit at the Drumstick Dash

As our city and culture seek to return to normal after the prolonged tragedy of Covid and the draconian lockdowns, the return of the Drumstick Dash is both a welcome sign of community health and also a good way to help the less-fortunate.

– Scott Dreyer

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