COLUMBUS, GA - More than 2,000 runners are expected to hit the streets at midnight on Saturday, Aug. 28 for the 30th Annual Country's Midnight Express.
In the hours leading up to the 5K run, the massive outdoor event at Country's on Mercury Drive will feature music, a poker run, a car show, cheerleaders and a stationary cycling fundraiser.
But perhaps the most exciting part of the evening will begin around 10:30 p.m., when a simulcast from Iraq will begin with greetings from a few of the 200 soldiers of the 3rd Brigade and will continue with their own 5K run in Iraq.
The largest footrace in Columbus, Country's Midnight Express is rich in tradition and has evolved into much more than just a 5K run over the years.
For the past 20 years or so, proceeds from the Midnight Express have benefited the visually impaired in Columbus and the Valley region, says Country's co-owner and race organizer Scott Ressmeyer. That's why all the special events leading up to the race focus on bringing awareness to issues facing the visually impaired.
While the Saturday festivities are scheduled to begin around 5 p.m., numerous events are scheduled for the entire week beginning Aug. 23:
Monday, August 23 - Dedication at the Columbus Public Library - 5:30 p.m.
A ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication of the Country's Barbecue Recording Studio for the Visually Impaired. This new recording studio, housed in the library, will be equipped for volunteers to read and record newspapers, periodicals and books to be available for visually impaired library patrons.
Wednesday, August 25 - Flite for Sight Golf Scramble at Maple Ridge Golf Club - 8 a.m.
Eight members of the American Blind Golf Association will challenge 16 blindfolded local golfers to an eye-opening 18-hole scramble. This is just a small demonstration of the event's goal for next year. In fact, event organizers are working to bring an international blind golf tournament next year to Columbus.
Thursday, August 26 - Country's Twilight Golf at Maple Ridge Golf Club
Activities begin at 5 p.m.; tee time is 6 p.m. -The last 9 holes of this scramble are played after dark with glow- in-the-dark golf balls, making for a great deal of fun. Only 24 teams can play, and slots fill up quickly, so people interested in playing should call (706) 566-9149 to sign up. The title sponsor for both scrambles is Mercedes Benz of Columbus, and 100 percent of the sponsorship money benefits the visually impaired.
Friday, August 27 - Beep Ball Game
This year the event is moving to South Commons; 7 p.m. - The visually impaired Chicago Comets Beep Ball Team will take on the blindfolded Midnight Express sponsors for a fun-filled, awareness building game of this visually impaired version of baseball. This event is free to the public.
Saturday, August 28 - Country's 30th Annual Midnight Express at Country's on Mercury Drive -The fun cranks up at 5, with the local motorcycle community leaving the parking lot for the annual poker run that helps to raise money for the visually impaired.
The event schedule includes:
5 p.m. - Poker Run
7 p.m. -Music featuring CSU students Garrett Miles and Heather Hammond. (Garrett is a current recipient of the Country's Midnight Express scholarship for the visually impaired.) The evening-long concert is sponsored by Columbus Regional Healthcare System.
8 p.m. - Show and Shine Car Show presented by PTAP
Music by Big Woody and the Splinters
9:30 p.m. - Bike-a-thon cycling fundraiser
Music by Classic Attic
10:30 p.m. - Simulcast with the 3rd Brigade in Iraq leading up to their 5K run beginning at 11 p.m. This simulcast will be made possible by WTVM, United Rental, and Columbus Tape and Video.
Midnight - Paul Vorhees of Ranger Joes and National Infantry Foundation Chairman MG (Ret.) Jerry White will start the 5k Run. Classic Addict will continue to entertain the spectators as the run continues. Once the runners cross the Aflac finish line, the Awards Ceremony will begin (around 1 a.m.)
In 2009, Midnight Express raised more than $50,000 to benefit the visually impaired in Columbus and the Valley region. To date, the event has raised more than $300,000.
"We started Country's Midnight Run 30 years ago as a fun event for our community to enjoy. We never dreamed that it would grow to become the largest footrace in Columbus," says Ressmeyer. "After the first 10 years or so, we decided that we wanted to focus our event on a purpose. We chose to raise awareness and designate all the proceeds from our event to benefit the visually impaired members of our community. We wanted to be able to make a difference in their lives. With the programs we have funded and the awareness-building events we have brought to Columbus over the past 20 years, we believe that we are fulfilling our goal."
[Click here for more information on the event and how to register.]