Thomas Halley has an extensive background in organization and logistics. But the retiree reached an entirely new level with his most recent undertaking — the Golden Isles Track Club’s Fourth of July race.
Held annually on the morning of Independence Day, the event features a one mile fun run and a 5K that winds through Mallery Street on St. Simons Island. Halley, as race chair, has been tasked with helping to corral the event, which sees roughly 1,000 participants each year.
“I live on Mallery Street so it’s in my backyard. I joined the track club, and I was ‘voluntold’ as they say in my career field that I would help out,” he said with a laugh. “I really had no idea of the extent of the work that’s involved. It’s a full-time job.”
But it’s one he’s welcomed with open arms. An avid long distance runner himself, Halley is all too happy to help give others a space to run. The race, which has been organized by the track club for the last 35 years, has become a Fourth of July kickoff for many families.
“We’ve been doing it for 35 years, but it’s been going on longer than that ... back to when the Jaycees had the Sunshine Festival carnival in the village. It has grown from approximately 150 runners to more than 900,” said Karen Stone, track club vice-president.
“We have a lot of locals but also visitors from Atlanta and Macon ... they really come from all over. It’s just a good, family-friendly event.”
The first race this year will be the 1 Mile Fun run which begins at 7 a.m. at 601 Mallery St., St. Simons Island followed by the 5K (3.2 mile) race at 7:30 a.m. at the same location on St. Simons Island. Registration can be done prior to the date online through the track club’s website, goldenislestrackclub.weebly.com. Registration can also be completed from 2 to 6 p.m. July 3 at St. Simons Presbyterian Church on Kings Way on St. Simons Island. That will also be the location for pre-race packet pick-up.
Same day registration may be done prior to the start time — between 6 and 6:45 a.m. — at Mallery Park. Stone notes that the neighborhood course is friendly for all levels of competitors.
“There are a lot of really good runners and some that just jog. The most important thing is that they come out, bring the family and have a good time,” she said.
“Some will stick around for the awards but then they go to breakfast, home to shower to the beach or pool. They come to the golf cart parade. It’s really just a great way to start the day. It really adds something.”
While the race will be the first of the day’s events, it certainly won’t be the only one. There are festivities planned throughout the Golden Isles. On St. Simons Island, following the race, the fun will continue with events collectively known as the Sunshine Festival. A golf cart parade will be held at 2:30 p.m. beginning from Mallery Park and proceeding through the St. Simons Island Village. Musicians will perform from 6 to 9 p.m. with a break for the fireworks at dusk. The annual St. Simons Fourth of July Arts and Crafts Show, hosted by the Brunswick Actors Theatre/SoGlo Gallery, will also take go down in Postell Park over the weekend.
Lynda Gallagher, owner of the Brunswick Actors Theatre/SoGlo Gallery, says the activities have become something that both locals and visitors look forward to each year.
“The Sunshine Festival is a Pier Village tradition I believe it started in the 1960s by the St. Simons Island Jaycees. The Pier Village on the waterfront is ideal for a celebration,” she said.
“Fireworks are spectacular and this year, the music by Georgia Music Hall of Famer, Caroline Aiken and her band with opening act, local band, Winged Mercury, promise to entertain all those who gather.”
The excitement continues over the causeway, on the next barrier island, Jekyll. The state-owned locale will begin the day with a 9 a.m. “old fashioned” parade along the historic district. That evening, fireworks will begin around 9 p.m. over the ocean.
Jekyll Island will continue the celebration throughout the weekend. It will host its Red White and Bounce Day from noon to 6 p.m. July 5 at the Beach Village. There will be bounce houses, water slides and sales at businesses, as well as live music. On July 6, it will host its music series with a concert at 5:30 p.m. at the Beach Village on Jekyll Island. The Golden Isles Strummers will perform. Attendees should bring blankets or chairs to the free show.
Last but certainly not least, the City of Brunswick will host its Old Fashioned Fourth of July from 7 to 9 p.m. in Mary Ross Waterfront Park in downtown Brunswick. There will be classic games for children and a watermelon for all. The fireworks display will begin around 9 p.m. over the waterfront.