When enough people and equipment to make up a small village are brought to Seaside every August, the city must prepare. But after 25 years of providing the finish line for the Hood to Coast Relay, everyone knows what to do.
“With Hood to Coast, the real challenge is there are about 40,000 or more people trying to move through town in one day,” said City Manager Mark Winstanley.
Because the event basically puts a “small city down on the beach,” said Winstanley, extensive preparations are made each year by those involved, including the relay’s organizers, city staff and public safety departments.
“The good news is we’ve done it for a lot of years,” Winstanley said.
The 33rd annual Hood to Coast Relay will take place Aug. 22 and 23. Self-described as “the mother of all relays,” the event features a 197-mile course, 1,050 teams and 12,600 runners.
The race starts at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and concludes just north of the turnaround in Seaside. In addition two other races, the Walk Relay and the High School Challenge, travel from Portland to the coast with a total of another 450 teams.
The weekend usually brings in about 19,000 participants from all three events, with twice that number in supporters and families.
Mayor Don Larson said the city has “a very, very good working relationship” with the Hood to Coast organizers after being the finish line for the event since 1989.
The relay’s organizers donate $18,000 to the city annually. Larson said the donation — or “token of appreciation” — usually goes to upgrade city parks. This year is no different: The money will be put toward a new boat dock the city plans to build on the Neawanna River at Broadway Park.
“We’re just excited for that gift,” Larson said.
Some people in Seaside believe the city should be given a lot more, he said, but he is grateful for the money and what it can be used for.
Hood to Coast also reimburses the city for anything “above and beyond” what must be done for the event, Winstanley said. Extra expenses associated with the race come from having more police officers on duty, a fire crew at the station at all times during the event and a public works crew picking up litter and monitoring extra restrooms. The costs will be tabulated after the event.
“It’s appropriate for them to reimburse us for the extra people we have to have on” because of the event’s size, Winstanley said.
The Hood to Coast’s 2014 charity is the Providence Cancer Center. Organizers estimate participants and employees will raise about $500,000 for local cancer research, treatment and support services, said Dan Floyd, chief operating officer for the race. A portion will go to Providence Seaside Hospital.
“We have considered giving more to the local community, and that is why we are giving $25,000 to Providence Seaside (Hospital) this year,” Floyd said. “This is all new money.”
Beginning Aug. 18, the organizers will set up the finish area for the race. The beach will be decked out with tents, booths, a large stage, lighting and sound equipment and other infrastructure.
“It looks like a little village on the sand,” said Police Chief Bob Gross.
Once race participants reach Seaside, they use a pedestrian bridge built over U.S. Highway 101. They travel west 12th Avenue to the Prom and then turn south toward the turnaround, “where their team will greet them at the finish line,” Floyd said.
“The atmosphere at the finish line is awesome,” he added. “The final runner is greeted by their teammates near the finish line where they will then cross the line together.”
A schedule for the closing day event on the Seaside beach already has been established. The organizers spend months planning the finish party, Floyd said.
“The goal is to have a glorious finish for participants that highlights the Oregon Coast and allows participants and spectators to safely celebrate the completion of the 33rd Hood to Coast Relay,” he said.
On Aug. 23, beer and food service will open at 11 a.m. An awards ceremony for the Portland to Coast Walk Relay and the High School Challenge will be from 5 to 6 p.m.
The Brian O’Dell Band will play from 12:45 to 3:45 p.m. on the finish stage. Hit Machine will play from 6:45 to 11 p.m. The beer garden closes at 11 p.m.
The Hood to Coast awards will be distributed at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 24.
The organizers met with Larson, Winstanley and representatives from the Seaside Police Department, Seaside Public Works and other local agencies to discuss this year’s event.
“They provide us well in advance with information concerning the kinds of things they’re planning for each year’s events,” Winstanley said.
Hood to Coast submits to the city a plan for the finish and a layout for the event every year. The documents have to be approved by the city. Usually there is a concern only if something has changed.
“We have an operations plan for Hood to Coast, so really all we have to do is look at what kind of things Hood to Coast is looking at changing,” Winstanley said.
Being able to review the plans gives the city the ability to reject something if it will not work in Seaside, Winstanley said. No significant changes to layout were proposed for this year.
However, this will be Fuller Events first year as producer of the finish party, so city staff members worked with the company to make sure it was prepared for the event.
“We had some conversations with them about how things work,” Winstanley said.
The whole purpose of the race is to get to Seaside. Runners and walkers arrive at the finish line at different times because of a specific seeding system implemented two years ago.
“There will be a steady flow of participants reaching Seaside from around 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 23,” Floyd said. “The majority of the participants will reach Seaside in the early afternoon.”
Seaside Chamber of Commerce has a special role at the Hood to Coast Relay finish line. For many years, the chamber has hosted the beer garden at the event. At least 90 volunteers help out, with at least 30 per shift for three shifts from 10:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Food service is offered in the beer garden, so people can listen music, eat and have a drink. Another food service area for the public is located nearby.
The Seaside Chamber of Commerce met with the organizers in April, said Doug Barker, who is helping the chamber with events.
“ ... There really wasn’t a lot to do for us. There’s a fair amount of planning, but they’ve been doing it year after year, so they’ve got it down pretty good,” Barker said.
The beer and wine are sold for $6 per glass. After paying for the product and other expenses, the chamber usually nets about $25,000 from beer and wine sales.
“If we didn’t have that, we’d be raising our dues,” Barker said. “It helps keep the doors open.”
The chamber still is looking for volunteers to help with this year’s event. For more information, visit seasidechamber.com.
Maintaining public safety
Local public safety agencies also are gearing up for the event.
As with any event, how busy Seaside Fire & Rescue is depends on how many people are in the city and what the weather is like, said Seaside Fire Chief Joey Daniels. If the weather is nice, it often will draw a larger crowd, which can affect the department’s operations if it is not prepared beforehand.
Hood to Coast pays for Seaside Fire & Rescue to have its three staff members work during the event, Daniels said. In addition to responding to calls as usual, the chief, division chief and captain will assist fire and rescue volunteers with incidents and make sure illegally parked vehicles aren’t blocking the department’s beach accesses.
The event organizers also are paying for the department to have two medically trained volunteers on bike patrol and four firefighters manning an engine at the fire department from noon to midnight on Aug. 23.
Usually the department does not have anyone at the facility on Saturdays, but the inevitable heavy traffic would make it difficult for a volunteer to respond to a page and get to the facility to run the fire engine in a timely manner.
“For us to provide protection to the citizens throughout the day, ... we will have an engine staffed,” Daniels said.
The two volunteers on bike patrol will have easier access to the Prom and the beach for a timely response to emergencies. They will be outfitted with full medical equipment.
Volunteer firefighters will provide the manpower to respond to big emergencies.
Traffic generated by the relay will be the police department’s responsibility.
“This is one of our events where it’s predominately traffic-related, as opposed to crowd-related,” Gross said.
The department puts extra officers on duty to patrol the downtown area on foot and extends hours.
“They (vehicles) fill up just about every parking lot you can imagine,” Gross said.
Traffic congestion and parking issues are the main concerns, but some driving complaints and minor accidents also occur.
In general, though, the event is one of the best in regards to the number of issues the police have to – or rather, don’t have to — take care of, Gross said.
“We rarely have to go into the event itself,” he said. “It’s a pretty family-oriented, fun-run event,”
By about 9 p.m., after the race is called, the traffic gradually goes back to normal, Gross said.
The public works crew has extra duties during the weekend, such as tending to restrooms and dealing with trash, “the things that we do on any big event weekend,” Director Neal Wallace said.
Most weekends during the summer already are busy, but the event adds some extra responsibilities, such as putting out additional signs for parking, he added.
“Over the years, the Hood to Coast event has tried to take on more and more of the responsibilities for trash in their area and different things,” Wallace said. “So other than the restrooms and trash in the downtown area — our regular concerns — it’s not that big of impact.”
Race organizers have created a hotline for race-related community concerns and inquiries that will operate from Aug. 18 to Sept. 1. The toll free number is 800-853-8412. For more information, visit www.hoodtocoast.com.
‘It looks like a little village on the sand’