For many, the annual Times Turkey Trot is a family affair that kicks off Thanksgiving

Published November 24 2016
Updated November 24 2016

CLEARWATER — In a brown fuzzy turkey hat, Cody Campbell busted out a cartwheel on the football field.

All around him, children, parents and grandparents walked by in similar festive attire paired with tennis shoes and gym shorts at Clearwater High School. On a day celebrated with overeating and lethargy, thousands of people got a workout Thursday morning at the 38th annual Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot before the stuffing even hit the table.

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On the field, Campbell, 6, threw his hands up to the applause of his family members. Like many, it was a multigenerational event for them, his sister, Vivi Lee, the youngest at 3, and grandmother Vivian Calcote the oldest at 73.

"It's just fun to be part of such a huge crowd," said his aunt, Caroline Calcote, who was on her sixth Turkey Trot and roped the rest of the family in three years ago.

The event drew about 17,000 people, an announcer said during the races, which consist of two 5K runs along with a 1-mile and a 10K. Before the 5K Fun Run, groups of families and friends milled around near the starting point on Druid Road.

One of the more festive groups snapped photos dressed as an entire Thanksgiving meal: turkey, broccoli, corn, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls and, for dessert, pumpkin pie, worn as a hat by the family patriarch.

Shane Bittaker, dressed as the chef of the meal, said he and his dad, the pumpkin pie, ran competitively when they started participating about 20 years ago. Since then, they've moved to the Fun Run as the family has grown larger and larger.

"They've all been doing it since they were in me," Alicia Solakian, the mashed potatoes, said of her daughters, the sweet potatoes and turkey, also known as Tessa, 6, and Jayden, 11 months.

Solakian, 35, ticked off themes of past years: Duck Dynasty camouflage, regular turkeys, rainbow turkeys. They even had their theme for next year's race planned.

"We can't tell you what it is," Solakian said. "It's top secret."

The crowd grew thicker toward the start line, buzzing with anticipation for the run to begin. Andy Hano, 64, pushed his way through surrounded by runners in matching shirts with "Trottin' for Michael" printed on the front. For Hano and his wife, Vicki, the race is a way to honor their son, Michael, who died at 29 in a car crash almost five years ago on Interstate 275.

He was athletic, but he hated running, his father said. They had to drag him to the race. Still, it was a tradition for the family.

"It's a special event for us," Andy Hano said. "It was the very first way we got people together for an event in his name."

The group has grown each year, and Andy Hano has always made sure to order shirts for the new people. As the run began, the group forged ahead in their matching shirts, the spectrum of faded hues showing the years that had passed by.

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 445-4157 or Follow @kathrynvarn.