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Memorial Day: How Planners Are Leveraging Patriotic Fervor to Create Better Events

17 May, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Get ready for the onslaught of red, white and blue-themed promotions. Memorial Day – the starting gun for the summer season – is just around the corner.

Most of America will notice the holiday on Monday, May 29, brings cookouts, mattress sales and pool openings. But smart sports event owners have been working long and hard to harness the energy and create tie-ins that are relevant to the increased spending on this first holiday of the summer.

The most obvious event, of course, is the 5K race and fun walk. Relatable to just about anyone from serious athlete to weekend warrior to couch spud, these events pull people into the holiday and encourage them to become active – at least for an hour or so. Running in the USA’s calendar shows more than 200 races (at press time) planned for that date – as opposed to the nearly zero races generally held on Mondays.

Interesting note: The Memorial Day weekend is an enormous travel time, spurring many event directors to offer their 5Ks prior to it; in fact there are well over 1,100 over the 20th and 21st.  And speaking of travel, WalletHub has noted 39 percent of Americans planned to travel over that weekend in 2016; 89 percent of those will drive and 2.6 million will travel by plane. (However, the crowds are notable, and only 11 percent classify it as the summer’s best travel holiday.)

Plenty of travel teams, meanwhile, will be taking in youth events. The ESPN Wide World of Sports in Florida complex hosts Disney’s Memorial Day Baseball Classic. In Nevada, the Las Vegas Memorial Day Flag Football Bowl welcomes teams of all ages as well. The Memorial Day State Championships in Orange County, California, meanwhile, will also bring in their share of activity, as does the Memorial Day Weekend Classic in Sandusky, Ohio.

Kids aren’t the only ones who get to cut loose over the long weekend. In Asheville, North Carolina, the fun at the Mountain Sports Festival extends to all ages and includes running, cyclocross, Ultimate, river rafting, yoga, cycling, disc golf and more.

There are also plenty of patriotic tie-ins to capitalize on the America-first fervor that will sweep the nation that weekend. Washington, DC, hosts the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally, which includes a wreath-laying. The Maryland Center for Veterans Education & Training (MCVET) hosts its running festival that weekend, with races of varying distances.

And since not much is as all-American as baseball, you can bet your bat that MLB teams are getting into the act. Home games that are scheduled to be held on Memorial Day (or over the weekend) include fireworks, patriotic-themed give-away shirts and hats, discounts for military and first-responders – and even yoga in the outfield.

Of course, all those yoga sessions, 5Ks, cycle rides and more might be the remedy for this final stat from WalletHub: 818 hot dogs are consumed every second between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

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