Twelve-year-old Kodi Balch shivered behind the starting line, anxious to begin running so he could warm up. The crisp October morning of last year’s Warner Fall Foliage Festival featured the Children’s 1-Mile Fun Run, and over 120 kids of all sizes had registered.
When the starting signal was given, a sea of green Fun Run tee-shirts washed down the main street of Warner to a corner where the course turned and climbed a small hill.
“I was going slowly at first,” said Kodi. “Others sprinted by me, then they ran out of energy and I passed them. Toward the final stretch, coming down hill, it’s like you’re winning a huge, huge race. Then near the end, I had to slow down because I was ready to drop. I was pretty tired.”
As the kids reached the final stretch of the race, the crowd cheered them on.
“Oh yeah. All the parents were screaming, ‘No, don’t stop. Finish strong. Keep on going.’ That made me run even faster. I came in 12th," Kodi said proudly.
“I drank a lot of water after, like five cups of it. The bubble party after was fun. There was a bubble machine and I was running around in the bubbles.”
Kodi helps his mom set up the festival, and some of his favorite features are the rides, fried oreos, fried dough, and many of the good things the food tent offers. He plans to race in the Fun Run again this year, and he hopes another large crowd will be cheering him and the others on.
“Other kids should definitely try the Fun Run. It’s good exercise and lots of fun, especially for kids who don’t get out much. It’s a good, fun thing to do,” Kodi said.
Although Kodi doesn’t participate in any other races, he enjoys playing soccer, basketball and snowboarding. When he grows up, there are many things he’d like to do. “I want to own the most Subway restaurants, be a professional soccer player, a professional basketball player, and a video game designer.”
His final thoughts on the festival are: “I just think everyone should come instead of sitting home doing nothing,” Kodi said proudly.
Gene Newbegin has been a dedicated volunteer of the Warner Fall Foliage Festival each Columbus Day weekend for about 16 years. For nine of those, he and his parents ran the food tent, cooking up breakfast, lunch and dinner for large crowds of people. Then Gene worked parking cars for a few years. Now, back at the food tent, he cooks hotdogs, onions and peppers, or whatever needs to be done, usually working 10-12 hours each day.
“I enjoy meeting people and working with food,” he said. “And the money we make helps keep town activities and other things going.”
One year a snowstorm hit during the festival. “Everyone wanted coffee, so I made coffee all day long,” Newbegin recalled.
Another time, he had walked to the bank for more change. “I was on my way back to the food tent and I spilled all the change. People helped pick it up, even little kids helped. I don’t think anyone kept one cent,” he said.
In spite of a persistent illness that would keep most people at home, Gene Newbegin is looking forward to working in the food tent again this year for his usual 10-12 hours each day.
“You have to be a people person to work in the food tent,” he said. “And those who aren’t, can help park cars or do something else.”
Newbegin thinks the Warner Fall Foliage Festival is a good organization, and its board of directors are doing a great job. “It’s grown to where we need to get more younger people involved.”
His favorite features are the arts and crafts along Main Street and in the Town Hall. “And I love to just sit and watch the people.”
Newbegin hopes folks will come and enjoy both days of the festival and watch all the activities. In order to make the festival a success, more volunteers are needed. Those wishing to help or wanting more information should visit the festival website: www.wfff.org.