Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Celebrating 30 Years of Memorial Day Fun Runs

This Memorial Day, May 30, marks 30 years of Falls Church Memorial Day events including 30 years of 3K Fun Runs sponsored by Don Beyer Volvo. The Fun Runs have become a beloved City tradition, with participants of all ages taking part in the Runs, and proudly claiming and wearing the T-shirt which is awarded to each person who completes the 3K course. The first 3K Fun Run was jointly sponsored by Don Beyer Volvo and The Falls Church News Advertiser. Mike Beyer, owner of Don Beyer Volvo, said there were 222 runners in 1982. By 2010, the number of those walking or running had grown to a total of almost 4,000.

In recognition of the 30-year milestone, there will be a walking contingent in the Falls Church Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 30 of people wearing all 30 years of the unique T-shirt designs developed and distributed each year. The goal is to represent all 30 years with two participants wearing the T-shirt for each year of the Fun Run’s history. Two shirts for two of the years, 1984 and 1985 and one additional shirt for 1982, 1983 and 1988 are being sought. Shirts for all the other years have been located. Members of the community are being asked to check their dressers and closets for those particular years.

It has become a City tradition for many residents to take part in the event, walking, running, rolling in wheelchairs and pushing strollers.

Community residents enjoy sharing memories of their participation in the Fun Runs. For 20 years before moving to Maine in 2005 Al and Lois Howlett invited friends and neighbors over for breakfast, volleyball and conversation after the Fun Run which started just up Great Falls Street from their home. In later years they hung their ever growing collection of T-shirts on the clothesline in the back yard. Al and Lois will be wearing the only T-shirts that they did not donate to Don Beyer in the parade-the popular 1992 purple shirt with pink letters. Former city resident Dennis Zimmerman and current city resident, Alex Lewis recall that there weren’t enough T-shirts for all the runners at the first Fun Run in 1982, and more shirts had to be ordered, to be picked up later at the newspaper office.

Over the years when Zimmerman was wearing one of his T-shirts while hiking with his family in national parks, people approached him who had run in a Falls Church Fun Run, had a connection with the City or were former residents. People have seen 3K Fun Run T-shirts all over the world. Stories have been shared about seeing spectators wearing their Falls Church T-shirts waving the American Flag on television at the Olympics in Barcelona and China. Don Beyer Volvo donated T-shirts to Falls Church’s sister city, Kokolopori in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Each year a new t-shirt has been designed with a new color and design. Twenty different artists over the years have designed the shirts.

In the earlier years trophies weregiven by age group and sex, however, the runs then became very competitive and the practice of awarding trophies stopped in the early 1990’s. By eliminating the competition, the fun was put back into the Fun Run that everyone knows today.

Each year a new t-shirt has been designed with a new color and design. Twenty different artists over the years have designed the shirts. A number of them have featured the distinctive pig sculpture in front of the Don Beyer showroom on West Broad Street. Each year the design is kept secret until the shirts are given out to breathless runners at the end of the run.

Several recent shirts have each had specific themes of local interest. The shirt for 1999 was dark green and celebrated 300 years of Falls Church’s history as a community. In 2007, a lavender shirt honored the late Jerry Ziskind, a beloved longtime first-grade teacher at Mt. Daniel School (the lavender being a nod to Mt. Daniel’s mascot, Danny the purple hippo). In 2008, the white shirt commemorated the Presidential campaign, and featured the three then-candidates, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama, as runners. The orange shirt for 2009 highlighted global warming, and 2010’s shirt sported the newly-adopted “Little City” logo. This year’s design has been kept under wraps, but it is a sure bet that it will be pulled on by Fun Run participants immediately after the Run, and the shirts will be spotted all around the community throughout the summer, and beyond.

Participants in the parade group commemorating the 30th anniversary of the first Fun Run are being recruited to walk in the parade wearing one of the T-shirts from the past. The parade begins at 2 p.m., and those who respond will be provided details about when and where to assemble. There will be coordination to make sure there will be people wearing two shirts for each of the 30 years. Children and adults are welcome, and transportation will also be available for those who wish to participate but cannot complete the distance on foot. Those running in the Fun Run or those watching the runners are also invited to wear their vintage shirts from years gone by as they watch the parade and take part in the day’s other events. If you are interested, please contact Rosemary Ziskind, rpziskind@yahoo.com or (703) 534-8708.


Beverly Mefferd contributed to the commentary.