2014-11-21 / Community

Color Run poses issue for some

By Duke Harrington
Contributing writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — What seemed a routine council order to close several Ferry Village streets for the 2105 Color Run turned into a lengthy debate Monday when a representative of the historical society stepped up to voice concern.

According to the society’s executive director, Kathryn DiPhilippo, expansion of the event into Bug Light Park for its second annual running last year, ended up closing down the historical society’s museum and gift shop for the day. Worse, she said, the society was not aware 6,000 runners would be clogging the area that day until just before the event. Society volunteers managed to get parking passes but actual museum patrons were out of luck and unable to gain entry to the site. Again this year, DiPhilippo said, she was not informed of the council’s road closure vote, learning of it only by chance because she happened to check the meeting agenda online.

The Color Run is a 5K road race in which participants are pelted with corn starch laced with food coloring, resulting in a kaleidoscope of rainbow- enhanced runners. The city gets $1 per runner for hosting the event, for a total of $6,000. However, even though the run last year raised $38,000 for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, some have objected to the fact that it is organized and staged by a forprofit corporation.

“For the city to tie itself up for a for-profit corporation for $6,000, that seems not adequate to me,” said resident Charles McNutt, at Monday’s meeting.

DiPhilippo agreed and said the event robs the historical society of a full day of potential gift-shop revenue during the height of tourist season.

“It seems like a natural to me that maybe there be a little bit of compensation for closing down the museum,” she said. “After all, it is a for-profit event essentially closing down a nonprofit.”

However, while councilors agreed that DiPhilippo should have received more advance warning of the event scheduling, there seemed less sympathy for lost foot traffic at the museum.

“The roads are only closed from 9 to 11 a.m.,” said Councilor Melissa Linscott. “We’re not really talking about the entire day.”

“Whether an organization is for-profit or nonprofit is merely a designation of tax status,” said Mayor Gerard Jalbert. “There are nonprofits where administrators have salaries of over $1 million a year. That kind of blurs the lines.”

For most councilors, the benefit the Color Run brings as a showcase event for South Portland outweighs the admitted inconvenience to the historical society.

“There’s a rub-off effect that comes from these events,” said Councilor Patti Smith. “I understand the plight we are talking about, but we also have to understand that when we host an event like this, it leads to investment and reinvestment in our city.”

In addition to the boost for area restaurants and businesses on the day of the run, and the lure it allegedly casts on potential new residents, the Color Run also benefits Bug Light Park, said City Manager Jim Gailey. According to Gailey, money from previous events is sitting in a reserve account awaiting next year’s deposit. That money will be spent on park improvements, including construction of a new bathhouse, Gailey said.

The council voted 7-0 to approve the requested street closures.

The course for the third annual Color Run will be identical to last year’s event, with parts of Fort Road and Surfside Road, as well as Preble, Thompson, Summit, Benjamin Picket and Madison streets shut down from 8 to 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 28, 2015. A rain date has been set for Sunday, July 12, 2015.

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