AUGUSTA — Heather Pease, having been in a similar run before with her daughter Kaitlin Higgins, knew going in to Saturday’s Color Dash Fun Run and Walk not to laugh or smile when passing through the color-throwing stations at which volunteers sling handfuls of brightly colored powder at runners and walkers. But she also knew, when that moment arrives, she probably wouldn’t be able to help but laugh, which would mean ending up tasting some gritty but otherwise harmless powder.

“I try to remember not to laugh, but I still forget, and laugh, and get it in my mouth,” she said of the flying colored powder, which was everywhere Saturday — on runners and walkers young and old, on volunteers, on the street, on the numerous selfie-snapping cameras in heavy use, and in the “color explosion” that capped off the event in a rainbow-colored cloud as all the colored powder not used up during the running and walking was heaved upon participants in the parking lot at Augusta City Center.

The Industry woman was not alone, as smiles and laughter were, like the colors, everywhere Saturday, with more than 500 participants running or walking 5 kilometers from Augusta City Center through downtown, along the Kennebec River Rail Trail, to the field outside the Kennebec Valley YMCA, and back to the city center on the same route back through the downtown.

The event, between sponsorships and entry fees, which ranged from $40 a person to $130 for a family of six, raised $13,428 for the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Augusta Downtown Alliance. Those two organizations received half the proceeds from entry fees and merchandise sales, with the rest retained by Color Dash, the company that put on the event and does others like it elsewhere.

The event is not timed, with organizers noting it is about fun, not speed.

Jake Emond, 13, of Windsor, had both fun and speed, finishing first in the race, the first time he’s done a color run, and, he said, having a great time doing so.

“Getting hit with the color makes it more motivating, energizing,” he said after the race, his hair, face and clothes a mix of pink, yellow, green, orange and blue. “I’m definitely going to do the next one too, when it comes back.”

He learned the same lesson as Pease — that it is best to keep your mouth closed when going through the multiple color-throwing stations along the course. He didn’t, and got some in his mouth. He said it tasted like cornstarch.

Which, organizers said, is pretty much what it was — nontoxic cornstarch and coloring.

Volunteer Carly Wiggin, an officer with the Augusta police, and Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, were ready when participants arrived at the first on-course color station, pitching handfuls of yellow powder at them on Water Street in the city’s downtown.

Wiggin said their goal was getting people from the shoulders down, not in the face, though some of the wind tested their accuracy. She said most of the participants seemed to seek out, rather than try to avoid, getting hit with color, with some stopping, raising their arms into the air, and turning so they could get a good dose of color.

Hall, his hands and much of the rest of him yellow, said about 50 volunteers helped out at the event. Some, like him, arose at 5 a.m. to be ready for the 7 a.m. check-in, at which participants picked up event T-shirts and their own individual packets of colored powder.

Those packets of color allowed Rita Cachu and Jasmine Mace, a mother-daughter team from Augusta, to get a head start on getting covered in color. The pair playfully chased each other around the parking lot at the city center near the start-finish line, throwing pink powder onto each other, then posing for a selfie photograph together before the start.

“It’s something new that’s healthy, fun and something we can do to stay active in the community,” Cachu said.

Later Saturday, Jasmine had other activities planned, which she planned to do while still covered in color.

“I’m going to play softball, in color,” she said.

Local businesses, including Charlamagne’s, Lisa’s Legit Burritos, Margaritas and the planned downtown restaurant Otto’s on the River sold food in booths near the start and finish line.

Several participants donned tutus and other outfits for the event, including Ross Cunningham, the burly president and CEO of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, resplendent in a rainbow-colored tutu he said was made for him by fellow chamber employee and event organizer Katie Doherty.

Cunningham said he was approached with the idea of hosting a local color dash a couple of months ago. He said he told Doherty if she could pull the event together, he’d do it in a tutu. She did, so he did.

Also in tutu-like outfits, some of their own design, were the Dancing Queens, a team including Pease and Higgins as well as Darlene Nile, of Industry, and Lynn Chellis, of Farmington.

Chellis’ outfit featuring strips of glitter-covered lame fabric draped around her like a skirt, as well as still more decorative lame-strips tied to her wrists was, she joked that she was afraid to admit, of her own design, made from material Nile had on hand. Chellis also sported a tiara. She said she took inspiration from “Mamma Mia,” a 2008 film based on the songs of the pop group ABBA, including the song “Dancing Queen.”

She said she planned to walk, not run, the course.

“I just want to get through it. There is no race in here,” said Chellis, who did complete the course and was spotted dancing to the beat of the music blasted across the parking lot by DJ Matt James after the race.

Participants finished in a cloud of pink as they crossed the finish line.

And once everyone was done, the couple of hundred participants who stuck around gathered in a group at the start-finish line as volunteers circled them, toting 5-gallon buckets holding the various colors that had not been used up already. After a countdown, the volunteers launched the remaining colors over the participants, creating a colorful cloud too thick to see through, as participants laughed and smiled and the colors merged and fell onto them.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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