Chillin’ in the Hills set for fresh start next weekend
Published 9:00 am Sunday, May 7, 2023
Gracie the Snowman has traded in their parka for a Hawaiian shirt. Chili bowls have been replaced by tumblers as the trophy of choice. A winter theme has given way to an early-summer party atmosphere, and the distance has been cut in half.
Those are just a few of the changes the Chillin’ in the Hills, one of Vicksburg’s three major running events, has undergone in the past 16 months.
The race formerly known as the Chill in the Hills has a new date, distance and name as part of a rebrand that organizers hope is also a rebirth when it celebrates its 15th anniversary Saturday, May 13, in downtown Vicksburg.
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“We got tired of being cold,” race director Walter Frazier laughed. “The Chill in the Hills is a fundraiser, and we were experiencing dwindling participation. We decided to move to a better month. COVID actually made it possible, because it killed a lot of other races around the state. May was open and it fit because it’s Mental Health Awareness Month and that fits with our mission.”
Chillin’ in the Hills is a fundraiser for Grace Christian Counseling Center, which provides low-cost counseling and mental health services for residents in Vicksburg and surrounding areas.
The event was held in January since its inaugural run in 2009, but had been plagued by bad weather in recent years. Three times in the past four years, rain and thunderstorms arrived in Vicksburg on the day of the race. The bad weather hurt attendance and the event’s mission as a fundraiser.
Nearly 250 people competed in the 10K run, 5K race walk and 1-mile children’s fun run in 2017. From 2019-22 combined, 316 people competed.
The decision was made last summer to move the race to May and overhaul it from top to bottom. While there are hints of the past, such as the play on words with the revamped name and the clay tumblers that have replaced chili bowls as trophies, Frazier said it is essentially a fresh start.
“We’re thrilled about having an opportunity to do something different,” Frazier said. “I still think of Chillin’ in the Hills as one of the ‘Big Three’ in Vicksburg — the Run Thru History and Over the River Run being the others — and this helps distinguish us from the other two.”
Frazier said every change was made to broaden the race’s appeal, which includes the distance. The race was previously a 10-kilometer run and 5-kilometer race walk. Now, both events will be 5 kilometers in length and follow the same course through downtown Vicksburg.
Runners and walkers will get plenty of bang for their buck, however. In addition to cutting the race distance, the entry fee was reduced to $25. Most races in Mississippi are $10 to $20 more than that.
“Our first priority is, this is a fundraiser. More people coming to it makes it a better race, and it also raises more money,” Frazier said. “We thought a 5K would be easier to draw a crowd, and we lowered the rate. We’re hoping most people will see that and want to come.”
There are also attractions to appeal to non-runners. There will be a day-long flea market set up in the Martins’ at Midtown parking lot, at 1101 Belmont St. Vendors will be there selling arts and crafts and a DJ will play music. Tables for the flea market are still available and cost $40.
Raceday registration for the Chillin’ in the Hills begins at 7 a.m. on May 13 at Martin’s at Midtown. The race starts at 8, and the flea market goes until 3 p.m.
So far, Frazier said, the changes have been well-received. With a week to go until the race, registrations are about double their normal pace, he said, and if the weather cooperates — finally — he hopes they’ll reach their levels before Mother Nature took a dislike to it.
“We would absolutely love that. That is our goal,” he said. “We’re trying to make this a big event and get up to about 250 or 300 people. It’s a good race, a good route. Our only problem is it’s been either 25 degrees or 40 degrees and raining. That shouldn’t be the case now.”
CHILLIN’ IN THE HILLS
• Saturday, May 13, 8 a.m.
• 5K run, 5K race walk and 1-mile children’s fun run
• The race will begin and end at Martin’s at Midtown, 1101 Belmont St.
• The entry fee is $25. Online registration is available through raceroster.com. Late registration will be available May 12 from 4 to 7 p.m., and May 13 from 7 to 7:45 a.m. at Martin’s at Midtown.