In 2010, as local restaurateur Aldo Dean was planning for Bardog's second anniversary alley party, one of his former employees tossed out another idea.
"She wanted to hold a 5K for our Salty Dogs running club, and she wanted to do it for charity. One of our bar patrons, Kevin Washburn, had a son who was being treated for leukemia at St. Jude, so I said, why don't we donate the money to [Kevin's] family? But Kevin said St. Jude pays for everything, so why don't we donate the proceeds to St. Jude?" says Dean, who also owns Slider Inn and Aldo's Pizza Pies.
That former employee, Jen Barker, also worked at Breakaway Running, so the locally owned running store got involved in organizing the event.
"I don't know anything about running a race, so that's why we got Breakaway involved," Dean says.
Thus, the Breakaway Bardog 5K was born. The 3.1-mile race has coincided with Bardog's outdoor anniversary party ever since. The race and party — now dubbed the Monroe Avenue Street Festival — is scheduled for Sunday, August 28th.
That first year, the race attracted a little more than 200 runners, many of whom were associated with Bardog's Monday night running club, the Salty Dogs. But last year, Dean said the race involved 1,500 runners and raised $32,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Runners form fund-raising teams, and the team that raises the most for St. Jude will win a $2,000 bar tab at Bardog. The group with the second highest fund-raising total will get 10 pairs of running shoes from Breakaway.
The race starts at 9 a.m. at Bardog and makes a loop around downtown. Beer bottle-opener medals featuring the Bardog logo will be awarded to the fastest runners in each age group. Afterward, there's a post-race party, and runners get access to free beer and food until 11:30 a.m.
"The race and the post-race party kicks into the Monroe Avenue Street Festival, so most of the runners stick around and party all day," says Bryan Roberson, owner and manager of Breakaway. Roberson and his girlfriend, Jessica Grammer, codirect the Breakaway Bardog 5K.
At 11:30 a.m., the Monroe Avenue Street Festival opens to the public. Although it's the seventh year for the 5K, the festival is in its eighth year. Dean held the first Bardog anniversary alley party in 2009, and the event has now grown so large that he's had to move the party from the next-door alley to an entire downtown block. Monroe Avenue from Front to Main will be closed to traffic, and the party takes place in the street.
"It's a fun event, just a big community party. And it's one of the few local street festivals put on by a business," Dean says.
The party is free, but some vendors will be accepting donations for St. Jude. Food will include dishes from Dean's restaurants — Bardog, Slider Inn, and Aldo's Pizza Pies — as well as food from Felicia Suzanne's, McEwen's on Monroe, and other downtown restaurants. MemPops will be on-site with their popsicle food truck. There's a VIP beer tent with more than 25 craft beers.
"If you're going to drink more than two beers, it's worth paying for the beer tent," Roberson says.
At 4:30 p.m., the eighth annual I Busted Grandma's Balls contest will pit amateur competitive eaters against one another in a meatball-eating tournament. There's a dunk tank and a prize raffle benefiting St. Jude.
Bands will play all day, and a few featured include Dead Soldiers, Michael Brothers, the Mighty Souls Brass Band, and the Sheiks.
The event is family-friendly and will include face-painting and cotton candy for the kids.