GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — The YMCA and Nebraska State Fair are partnering to advance the development of the Bill Seymour Half Marathon.
The fair approached the YMCA with the proposal, said Becca Heidelk, YMCA special events coordinator.
She said fair officials asked: “Can we work with you and help you get it to the next level?”
State Fair events and entertainment director Chelsey Jungck said the fair is always looking for event partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
“Most programming partners will still take care of everything for the event, and hopefully our brand helps them grow the event,” she explained. “The fair gets value by adding another established event.”
Heidelk said the change from the Bill Seymour Half Marathon to full marathon, half marathon and 5K races will occur for the 2014 race, and the name will be changed.
“It will turn into an event where anyone can do it and you don't have to be in peak condition in order to do the 5K or make it the full 13 or 26 miles,” said Cara Lemburg, YMCA senior program director.
She said the races will be certified, meaning the route has been certified as the correct distance to set records for the half, full or 5K races. Plans also include having the marathon sanctioned so runners can qualify for the Boston Marathon.
“We have had the Bill Seymour for 35 years through the YMCA,” Heidelk said. “Bill Seymour was one of our members and was an original GI Jogger, which is generally where this race came from.
“The YMCA took it over, and it became the Bill Seymour Run and the Grand Island Half Marathon. The Seymours are still a big part of it.”
Lemburg said they have been vigilant that the essence and spirit of the YMCA and Bill Seymour will always be a part of the race.
Jungck, Heidelk and Lemburg each noted most of the details are still being worked out as far as the admission fees, naming and course.
Lemburg said the $35 and $30 fees the race has typically had will be going up, possibly to cover the cost of fair admission and the added cost to have a sanctioned, qualifying marathon.
“We hope that the admission would be all inclusive in the entry fee, and then all the runners can enjoy the fair with their families,” Jungck added.
Lemburg added that the course will be one of the flattest, fastest courses in the Midwest. It should be a good draw for competitive runners.
“I look forward to being involved in a larger event and am excited to add an established race like the Bill Seymour to our entertainment,” Jungck said.
“I don't know of any other fairs doing something like this,” she said, “and it's something we can be a trendsetter with.”