Area readies for 40th U of O Homecoming Weekend

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Homecoming weekend is a crown jewel of the University of Okoboji calendar. The upcoming weekend features a sanctioned marathon, a half-marathon 10K run and triathlon.
File photos

The forecast calls for a high of about 88 degrees Saturday in Arnolds Park. But, conditions should be a bit cooler during early-morning starts for the annual University of Okoboji marathon, half-marathon, triathlon and 10K run. The events are all part of the university’s Homecoming Weekend.

“We’re just really looking forward to another great event,” event founder and U of O Director for Life Bob Rose said on Monday. About 630 participants had already registered for events.

“I’ve been checking the entries and we’re about normal for this time — we’ve got about a week to go,” he added. “Every year, it’s a little different because the weather changes a little bit. Sometimes, people think it’s a little too hot, so they hold off until the last day to register. But, we’re going to have our usual 700 to 900.”

Event organizers encourage prospective participants to get their registrations in as soon as possible — the deadline is 5 p.m. Thursday. Athletes should visit and click on the “Events” tab for more information and to register.

Organizers have a milestone to celebrate in addition to the headcount: 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of homecoming celebrations on campus.

“We know that lots of people come back every year and the locals come out and support it in one way or another,” Rose said. “We’re just so appreciative of how this has progressed over the years. Gosh, 40 years ago — 1978 — we had the first one and I doubt we had a hundred altogether. Now, we’re up to nearly a hundred times that much and it’s just amazing.”

Homecoming weekend didn’t include a triathlon in the first five years of festivities. Some of the starting points have changed over the years as well. The triathlon swim, for example, used to begin at the Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp and end at Pike’s Point. Now it starts at the State Pier near Bob’s of Arnolds Park.

“We kick off the swim at about 7 a.m. and (divisions leave) in various waves so that we don’t have too many people in the water at the same time,” Rose said. “They swim about a half-mile course out and back, then take a complete loop around West Lake on their bikes. Then, they run basically a 10K run out from Arnolds Park — out and back.”

The University of Okoboji marathon begins on Lake Street near the Legend wooden roller coaster. The 10K and the half-marathon still start on the west side of West Lake Okoboji near Highway 86: The half-marathon begins at Wahpeton City Park. The 10K runners gather at Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp.

“Everything ends at the State Pier, so if you live around the Lake, we would be very grateful if you would get out sometime on Saturday morning and encourage the runners and the bikers,” Rose said. “Some runners like to run through a sprinkler or a hose of water. We have many, many aid stations about every 2-3 mile and the Red Cross takes care of that for us. It takes a lot of people and it takes cooperation with all of the municipal entities around the lake. We’ve had that over the years and we so much appreciate it.”

Riders in the triathlon and runners in the distance events use the Dickinson County trails system as much as possible, but drivers in the area are encouraged to use caution Saturday morning.

The awards ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at the State Pier finish line, but a University of Okoboji “education” doesn’t end with the late-morning arrivals. Other “homecoming” activities include sailboat races, fishing, tennis, bicycle trail rides and the Okoboji Summer Theater’s production of the classic comedy “Boeing, Boeing.”

The only required course this Homecoming Weekend is a cruise on the Queen II and a tour of the Maritime Museum, located next to the Arnolds Park Amusement Park, organizers said in their homecoming weekend announcement.

“It’s kind of like a family reunion — getting to see everyone every year at this time,” Rose said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

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