Spherical chaos

10th annual ‘Running of the Balls’ returns | Rhody Festival

Posted 5/18/22

What better way to celebrate the blooming spring flowers and forthcoming Rhododendron Festival than unleashing thousands of golf balls on a collision course down a steep hill on Monroe Street?

As …

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Spherical chaos

10th annual ‘Running of the Balls’ returns | Rhody Festival

Posted

What better way to celebrate the blooming spring flowers and forthcoming Rhododendron Festival than unleashing thousands of golf balls on a collision course down a steep hill on Monroe Street?

As unusual of an event that the annual “Running of the Balls” race is, it’s been a mainstay of Rhody Week in Port Townsend for a decade now.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the “Running of the Balls” in person, the event involves releasing a few thousand golf balls down a race track-like setup bolstered by wooden boards on both sides as the balls roll down Monroe Street for three blocks. Typically a local kid “lifts the tail of the bull” — a lever that releases the golf balls — and the first four balls to finish win prizes.

The race starts at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21 on Monroe Street at the steep section near the Lawrence Street intersection.

The event was named after the Running of the Bulls event in Spain, where every year a crowd of people flees from bulls that are let loose on the streets, although the Rhody Festival event is considerably less dangerous for participants and doesn’t involve fleeing from an aggressive, one-ton animal with horns. 

“The balls basically just go nuts on the pavement … it’s a lot of fun and the crowd on both sides of the street get into it,” said Chuck Henry, one of the event’s lead organizers and a member of the Port Townsend Sunrise Rotary Club.

“This will be our 10th ‘Running of the Balls,’” he added.

Another highlight of the ball race is the appearance of the fan-favorite, red mascot known simply as “The Bull,” who hypes up the crowd with its beastly energy.

“The Bull’s” chances of attending the event are “almost guaranteed,” Henry said.

“We’re always looking for willing volunteers to get in that thing; it’s a little hot,” he noted.

Even so, the mascot is never one to get hot-headed.

“It has a fan built into the headpiece,” Henry explained.

This year’s ball race is organized by the Sunrise Rotary Club. It’s a fundraiser where donors buy numbered tickets that match with golf balls in the race.

Donations aid Sunrise Rotary Club’s numerous programs that assist the youth of Jefferson County, such as the Third Grade Dictionary Giveaway Project, the ReCyclery, and the Backpack Food Program.

“It’s great fun and raises money, too, for the kids,” Henry said.

Prizes for the owners of the top four finishing balls are: $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, $250 for third place, and fourth place nets a year’s supply of coffee from Better Living Through Coffee, Henry said.

“It’s silly and so much fun,” he said.

Everyone is invited to attend the event and watch the golf balls careening down Monroe Street as an opening act to the Rhody Parade that follows 30 minutes afterwards.

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