New Orleans 'Red Dress Run' a beer-fueled charity event
Sorry, Founding Fathers: The "pursuit of happiness" means something different in New Orleans, and the Hash House Harriers are determined to keep it that way.
The Harriers, who style themselves as a "drinking club with a running problem, " have recruited thousands of guest runners, walkers and layabouts to wiggle into crimson gowns and make their way from bar to bar in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny on Saturday.
Now in its 17th year, the New Orleans Red Dress Run has soared in popularity since its debut, growing from an initial field of about a dozen to a sprawling romp that draws participants from as far away as Chicago. About 7,500 men and women registered for the 2010 event, raising close to $200,000 for charity. Proceeds were divided among 50 local nonprofit organizations.
"We like to drink beer, sing bawdy songs -- and do good in the process" said Bill Healy, one of 16 local "hashers" who organize the benefit and help to arrange the smaller, weekly runs that the group stages for members only.
The idea for a red dress run originated elsewhere -- some say San Diego -- and has spread to many Harrier clubs around the world. But the New Orleans run dwarfs the frocked footraces in other towns.
"This is a natural event for New Orleans, because we like to party, but that's not the only explanation for the success of our run, " Healy said. "New Orleans men are simply less terrified of appearing publicly in a dress. We have costuming in our blood. Almost everyone I know has closets packed with years of Mardi Gras stuff."
Carnival finery won't cut the mustard on Saturday, however. You'll need a red dress to join the fun -- and garments of that hue are in short supply around New Orleans.
"Employees at local thrift shops are accustomed to us, " Healy said. "On any day in June and July, you'll always see three or four guys browsing the racks -- and nobody bats an eye. For our members, we even have organized a red dress swap, since it's considered bad form to run in the same dress twice."
If you prefer to watch the race, it's not hard to find red-clad hashers on the narrow streets of the Vieux Carre, but the actual route is not announced until the day of the event. Participants will gather in Washington Square Park starting at 9:30 a.m. for a day of live music, beer and food. The race begins at 4 p.m. -- if anyone is still standing.
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Chris Waddington can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3448. Read more at nola.com/entertainment.
New orleans red dress run
What: Thousands of crimson-clad runners will crowd French Quarter streets -- and bars -- for this beer-fueled charity event.
Where: Racers gather at Washington Square Park for a daylong warm-up party. Route will be announced on Saturday.
When: The party, which includes food and live music, starts Saturday at 9:30 a.m.; the race begins at 4 p.m.
Admission: $75. For details about online registration and payment, go to neworleanshash.com. Runners can register at the event, but only cash is accepted. Red dresses are de rigueur.
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