Ugly Sweater Dash goes virtual

St. Louis Park 5K brings festive mood to the community

Amalia Fischer

Community events do a lot to bring people together even when they aren’t physically together due to the pandemic. The St. Louis Park Ugly Sweater Dash occurs annually and is a kickoff to the holiday season, but this year the Dash looked different, according to City Recreation Supervisor and coordinator of the Dash Lisa Abernathy.

“Normally on the first Sunday in December, we’d have an Ugly Sweater Dash, which is usually a 5K run/walk… it’s always had a great turnout. People get together and they get their ugly sweaters on. It’s just a fun kind of nice winter outdoor event that we do,” Abernathy said.

With the pandemic and its current restrictions, an in-person 5K isn’t able to happen. Abernathy said that though she and her coworkers tried to make it work, an in-person Dash just wouldn’t be the same this year and a virtual event made more sense.

“We thought at first we were just going to limit the number of runners and do a wave of start times and keep everyone distant. Another thing is we weren’t going to be able to go into Park Tavern to do the post-race, which is a big part of this event as well,” Abernathy said. “It just didn’t feel right. We were bummed, but we thought ‘well, what’s another way that we could make this successful?’ So we decided to turn it virtual.”

“The numbers are much smaller this year. There are a lot of virtual races going on so it’s kind of saturated,” Abernathy said. “

With a lot of our programs we’re just trying to navigate how we can still serve residents in our community with programming, even though we can’t physically be there with them.”

— Lisa Abernathy

Though the Ugly Sweater Dash looked a lot different than normal this year, senior Ellie Keller said the Dash is a great way to keep a sense of routine for people.

“Especially with COVID, trying to keep things as normal as possible and keep up traditions that have been going on for a while is important because it gives a sense of normality that is very much lacking this year,” Keller said.

A virtual 5K looked a lot different than a live and in-person one and Abernathy said people run individually and will send in a photo of themselves and their times. She also said the Dash will still be supporting their usual sponsor — Park Tavern.

“You can go put your ugly sweater on by yourself or with friends and family in your favorite park or somewhere where you like to run and do 5Ks. Then take a picture of yourself and submit it to us,” Abernathy said. “That would be their entry to win a $100 gift card for Park Tavern, so we’re still promoting Park Tavern as well as encouraging people to go out and still run the 5K even though they couldn’t do it as a large group with us.”

With the Sweater Dash going virtual, the expected turnout is a lot less than past years because of other virtual races and general burnout, but Abernathy said she was still excited and glad to serve her community.

Keller said the Dash is a great way to bring joy back into the season and give people something exciting to do.

“It’s a fun way to get the community involved with everybody having a good time during the holiday season. It’s fun, cute, festive and light-hearted. Especially when everything is so crazy, it’s good to have something that can bring the community together,” Keller said.

People can run the 5K and submit their photo before Dec. 30, when the gift card winner will be drawn. For more information about the Ugly Sweater Dash click here.