A red, six-legged blur crossed the finish line Saturday, officially christening the holiday season at Ardmore’s Regional Park.
It was the 22nd year Ardmore has rung in the holiday season with the Chigger Chase run, and this year, despite blustery conditions, the event brought in more than 800 participants to the race, setting an attendance record, according to race organizers.
First National Bank vice president Jake Charnock, along with Senior Vice President Bob Bates and Citizens Bank vice president Nancy Sjulin, served on the race committee that organizes the Chigger Chase every year.
While over 800 runners participated in the  races, dozens more huddled around the finish line, supporting loved ones and strangers as they closed out the race. Charnock said it was a great day for  Ardmore.
“The community showed great support for two great agencies in the Family Shelter and the Ardmore Parks Department,” Charnock said. “It’s community building and gets everybody going for the Christmas season.”
The Chigger Chase included runners of all ages and paces. The event offered a quarter mile race for children 6 and under, a half mile and 1 mile race for children ages 7-12, a 1 mile walk and then the 5k Chigger Challenge. This year, the event also featured a 5-mile trail run for the first time.
Nancy Sjulin said with the record turnout she expects to see a record amount of funds raised for the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma and the Ardmore Parks and Recreations Department.
“The numbers aren’t official yet, but it sure is looking that way,” she added.
Sjulin said funds will be split evenly between the two organizations.
“It’s the parks department’s only fundraiser for the year and it allows us to do projects throughout the year,” Sjulin said. “We’re usually pulling in around $20-25,000.”
The event’s turnout has usually depended on the weather and Sjulin said seeing a record turnout on such a blustery day came as a happy surprise.
“This time of year it can be dicey with the weather,” she said. “It can be real windy like today and it can get pretty cold. But we’ve been pretty lucky this year.”
The race also kicked off the opening of the Festival of Lights with racers running past giant glowing displays of Christmas spirit through Ardmore’s Regional Park. The Festival of Lights will remain open until Dec. 30.
The Chase also brought a record turnout for Girls on the Run, an after school program for girls 3rd through 8th grade.
Crystel Heitz, the office coordinator at Girls on the Run said the group began running the 5k race in 2013 and started with just 23 girls.
“This year 155 girls ran the 5k,” Heitz said. “We trained for 10 weeks with the girls to run the 5k, but the main part of the program is to learn to be joyful, healthy, and building a healthy lifestyle. We work on setting goals for their life and for running. This is the end of our season and our celebration.”