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The annual Fourth of July sporting event featuring a swimming, running, biking and kayaking leg will still take place

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Runners take off during the John Marsh Memorial Run last July 4th. While much of the Splash 'N Dash will be virtual in 2020, the Marsh run will be a live event. There will also be a virtual option for the Marsh run.

A lot of summer events have been canceled as the community continues to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Splash 'N Dash is not on that list. Though much of it will be run virtually this time, the annual Fourth of July sporting event featuring a swimming, running, biking and kayaking leg will still take place. And the John Marsh 5K, a relatively new addition to the Splash 'N Dash lineup, will be run as a live race.

Race organizers had to wait until the 11th hour to determine exactly what the Splash 'N Dash would look like in 2020. With decisions pending on reopening phases and how it would affect gathering maximums and access to the swimming pool, event organizer Ernie Brooks considered multiple options before arriving at a concrete plan.

With the pool reopened to lap swimming, the traditional four-event race will include virtual versions of each leg. People are welcome to visit splashdash.org and sign up for the event and competitors can complete their virtual portions of the race between Wednesday, July 1 and Wednesday, July 8. Finishers can then return to the Splash 'N Dash website and submit their times with the potential of earning awards.

Meanwhile, the running of the John Marsh 5K, held in memory of the local business owner and running enthusiast, will take place on Independence Day. People are encouraged to sign up online, but day-of-race registration will be available, beginning at 7 a.m. Competitors will be asked to sign a contact tracing waiver and must be fever free for at least 24 hours and not have a cough.

The first wave of the race, which will include up to 100 runners, will begin at 8 a.m., and a second wave will be held at 9 a.m. for any additional competitors. Brooks stressed that competitors will be recommended — but not required — to wear face masks leading up to the start of the run. They can remove them once the race begins.

A virtual version of the John Marsh 5K is also available to those who prefer not to run in the live race.

Typically, the finish line for the Splash 'N Dash is a source of fanfare, including a barbecue and award presentations. But this year, at the finish line of the 5K, those events won't await them because of pandemic-related regulations.

"Once they cross the finish line, they are done," Brooks said.

However, awards will be given out in the days ahead. On Tuesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 16, competitors can stop by Crooked River Brewing to receive their awards or they can be mailed out to recipients.

Along with a fortuitous change in pandemic regulations, several sponsors are credited with making the Splash 'N Dash a reality this year. Brooks noted that Crook County Judge Seth Crawford and local dentist Dr. Tony Ramos provided financial help, as did local businesses like Secure Storage, Ericksons Thriftway, King's Auto and Bend Broadband.

"Without them, we wouldn't be able to do it," he said. "We live in a great community."

But since the number of sponsors is well below the usual 30, a byproduct of the pandemic hitting local businesses hard, the 2020 Splash 'N Dash will not serve as a fundraiser for the Crook County Track and Field program this year. Brooks expects the event, which typically raises around $5,000 for the program, to break even.

However, a portion of the proceeds from the John Marsh 5K will still go to the Give Back program.

"Every year, we find a deserving and needy family and bless them with a check," Brooks said, adding that most years, that dollar amount lands between $500 and $1,500.

Although the 2020 Splash 'N Dash will differ a lot from past events, Brooks is pleased that it will be offered at all. He acknowledged that now is a time to be smart and diligent about keeping the community safe but stressed that it shouldn't come at the expense of social interaction and fun activities.

"You need to be social. You need to be out. You need to have that interpersonal communication," he said. "We need to do a community event so that people can get out and know that there is regular life out there and some type of normalcy. We are excited to do it."


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