By Dave Ongie, News Editor
From Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls to drive-by birthday parties and socially distanced visits from the porch, 2020 has taught us many new ways to come together from a safe distance.
We found a new way to be together apart last Thursday morning as Johnson City’s 15th annual Turkey Trot was held virtually for the first time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A ceremony was held to kickoff the virtual 5K run/walk, and much of it was familiar to anyone who has attended or participated in the event in the past.
Josh Smith served as the master of ceremonies. Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock welcomed the runners. Elementary school students were on hand to help kick off the event. The national anthem was performed, and Charlie Harmon there with his trusty bullhorn to start the 5K run/walk.
But the silence that greeted the speakers was deafening. Instead of a teaming crowd of over 4,000 gathered at the corner of Legion Street and State of Franklin Road, speakers looked into a camera as the kickoff was livestreamed to about 1,400 registered runners scattered across the city and beyond.
There were two notable absences on Thursday morning more glaring than the lack of runners at the familiar starting line. The first was the late Dr. C.H. Charlton, who had delivered the invocation prior to each of the first 14 Turkey Trots. Charlton passed away in January, and newly elected Johnson City Commissioner Aaron Murphy honored his memory by reciting a prayer Charlton had delivered prior to a previous Turkey Trots.
The other absence was former Johnson City Mayor Jane Myron, who also passed away earlier this year. While Myron had relocated to middle Tennessee, she co-founded the event along with current Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, who remembered her friend fondly during the kickoff event.
When Harmon gave his command, runners took off in all directions to tackle their own uncluttered courses, each with their own unique finish lines looming in the distance. Afterward, many participants took to social media to express their thankfulness for a little normalcy in the midst of a most abnormal year.
Those who participated this year were separated by space, but united in purpose. A familiar tradition lived on, but did so in isolation.