This past Saturday was my favorite Saturday of the year in Tupelo. The annual Gumtree Festival and Gumtree 10K make for a grand weekend full of art, music, food, running, and fun in Downtown Tupelo. The festival is usually held Mother’s Day weekend, with the exception of every few years when Mother’s Day falls on the first weekend of May and other area races are held that first weekend. Our annual tradition is to pick out Mother’s Day gifts at the juried arts festival, so the gorgeous painted barnwood tray I picked out this year was well worth the wait! While I look forward to the festival every year, it is the race that makes this Saturday my favorite Saturday of the year.
The Gumtree 10K winds its way through Downtown Tupelo before heading into some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Traditionally, watch parties are held to cheer on the runners and neighborhoods get together to man water stations. The race comes up one side of my house and turns in front of it, so we invite our neighbors, close friends, and family to join us for breakfast and to help cheer on the runners. This combines two of my very favorite things: running and brunch! I was probably asked about 100 times if I was running Gumtree this year, but given the chance to throw a party, I always put on my party hat instead of my running shoes.
The Gumtree 10K has been held for 39 years and runners from all over the world come to Tupelo to participate in the race. My husband, John, is a runner and has run Gumtree several times. The last time he ran it, I put on the party by myself, in the rain, and after that I graciously asked him to bow out from being an annual participant. The last year he did participate, he said that his favorite part was running through the Joyner neighborhood and being cheered on and encouraged by all of the onlookers. The support from the Tupelo community is what makes this race extra special. In 2014, an EF-3tornado ripped through my neighborhood just weeks before the Gumtree 10K. With cleanup efforts underway, the city considered canceling the annual race, but the Joyner neighborhood banded together and asked the city to keep the race as scheduled. We put up signs proclaiming #TupeloStrong, cleaned up our yards and helped our neighbors clean theirs, and we still held our parties and cheered on the runners. It was a much needed bright spot in an otherwise dark time. But, that’s Tupelo, and that’s why my community is so special.
So, like I said, this is my favorite Saturday of the year in Tupelo. If you’re a runner, I highly recommend making a trip to do the race, enjoy the festival, hear some great live music, and do your carb-loading at one of the city’s wonderful local restaurants. If you’re not a runner, then just plan to come eat breakfast at my house. I make a mean sausage casserole.
2016 Miles to Go: 876