Tradition continues

Runners and walkers showed up as annual Firecracker Footrace went virtual.

Chris Wagner (from left), Stacie Zinniel and Maria Wagner walked the 5K Firecracker Footrace route in honor of Mike Wagner, who died of cancer in 2015. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

There was no jostling for a prime starting spot at this year’s Firecracker Footrace.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 41st annual Fourth of July race went virtual in order to provide a safe event. A virtual race is a race that can be run or walked from any location. Participants can run, jog, or walk on the road, on the trail, on the treadmill at the gym or on the track. Runners and walkers set their own pace and timed themselves. Participants could complete the 5K run between July 4 and July 12 and enter their times at

Instead of hundreds of runners and walkers gathering at Heartland Park on Saturday, July 4, there were only two runners and one walker present for the traditional 9 a.m. start.

Matt Benson and Dave Benson decided to start their Fourth of July by participating in the annual 5K run.

“I run most days and I was going to go for a run anyway,” said Dave Benson. “I thought I might as well run the course.”


“I do it for fun,” said Matt Benson, who carried an American flag during his 5K run. “It’s tradition.”

Eric Olson showed up as usual dressed in his traditional red, white and blue outfit. After running the 5K route for more than two decades, Olson now participates at a slower pace.

“I’m walking it,” said Olson, who counted down the start time on his watch. “I’m waiting until 9. That’s the official time to start the race.”

For Chris Wagner and her children Owen and Maria, this race has special meaning.

The trio has participated in this race for the last six years in memory of Mike Wagner, who died of cancer in 2015.

“We’ve got to run. It’s tradition,” said Owen Wagner, who wore a purple ‘Miles for My Dad’ T-shirt. “My family always gets together and runs it.”

“It’s tradition that we do the course in honor of Mike,” said Chris Wagner, who wore a purple ‘Miles for Mike’ T-shirt. “It’s not the Fourth of July without this.”

Alec Means of Danville, Indiana, posted the top time of 17:09. Keegan Moses of Park Rapids was second in 21:01 and Owen Wagner of Park Rapids was third in 25:21. Jill Booth of Fargo, North Dakota, had the fastest women’s time of 27:48. Not all the people who signed up for the race posted their times.


This annual race is the biggest fundraiser for the Park Rapids boys and girls track and field teams and the boys and girls cross-country teams. Participants will be able to pick up their T-shirts at Heartland Park on Friday, July 24, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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