By JB Clark
TUPELO – Colored plumes of chalky dust hung in the air downtown Saturday morning as more than 4,000 runners ran through green, blue, pink and yellow on their way to the Color Vibe 5k finish line.
The race kicked off a day of festivities in Tupelo which Tupelo Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Neal McCoy said attracted about 6,000 to 6,500 guests to the city.
“We’ve not only got the Color Vibe run and NOleput but we have a couple of sports events – the Daily Journal Relay, an adult softball tournament, high school tennis tournament – and also the circus,” he said. “All these people are in town spending money and enjoying themselves so they are adding to the quality of life and the cash registers. It’s a benefit for everybody.”
Half of the proceeds from Saturday morning’s 5k were donated to Tupelo’s Family Resource Center.
“We were looking for something to promote child abuse awareness month – April,” said Jamie Osbirn, president of the Family Resource Center Board of Directors. “We talked in the fall about doing a color race ourselves but when the CVB announced the Color Vibe was coming we jumped on board with them because the people at Color Vibe are incredible.”
Osbirn said a piece of each registration fee will go to the center and they were hoping to bring in $10,000.
Alice Anne Lee and her four friends from Water Valley were a few of the many out-of-towners enjoying Tupelo on Saturday.
“I’ve never done a run or color run before and I thought it was awesome,” she said standing next to the rest of her “Valley Girl” teammates at the finish line. “The organization was good, it was a great day for the race and it’s a blast – you just have to remember to close your mouth when you run through the color.”
The five planned the trip weeks ago and wore white shirts with “Valley Girl” printed on the front. By the end of the race the shirts were covered in the bright cornstarch powder, which also covered many downtown streets. The color, the Color Vibe website assures, will wash out.
Following the race, bands played on three different stages all afternoon and night while onlookers enjoyed crawfish and other Cajun-inspired foods at the NOleput festival, a Mardi Gras take on Tupelo’s old spring festival, Oleput.
Jessica Sullivan of Shannon ran the Color Vibe 5k with two of her friends and as they passed through downtown Tupelo on foot, they saw festival preparations.
“We were walking and saw the funnel cakes and stopped to take a picture in front of the tamale truck,” she said. “We thought, ‘They’re teasing us with all of this,’ so we came back by after the race.”
Melonie Kight, one of the NOleput organizers, said the festival got off to a great start.
“It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and we have great bands,” she said.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said he was excited to see such a large crowd early in the day and was happy to have the festival return to the city.