BRADENTON -- A 17-year tradition, the Jingle Bell Run, returns to downtown Bradenton tonight, bringing with it 2,000 to 2,500 runners and a number of blocked streets to keep them safe.
Last year, the Jingle Bell Run was moved to Lakewood Ranch because of Riverwalk construction.
"It's the largest Jingle Bell Run in Florida," said Tom Orehowsky, executive race director for Bradenton Runners Club and race coordinator for the Jingle Bell Run.
Jingle Bell Runs, which often include runners in holiday costume and with tiny bells on their shoes, raise money for the Arthritis Foundation.
This year's Jingle Bell Run includes a three-mile race at 7 p.m., followed by a one-mile run/walk at 7:15 p.m. Registration begins at 5 p.m.
The starting point for both is on Old Main Street, with the three-mile runners starting at the intersection at Fourth Avenue West, and the one-milers at the intersection at Third Avenue West.
The runs will be staffed by 100 volunteers and 12 Bradenton police officers.
"We've been doing it for years and we have always handled it safely. We are looking forward to having an incident-free event," said Capt. Warren Merriman of the Bradenton Police Department.
Drivers should watch for blocked intersections and lots of runners in the area.
"It's very important for the general public to know that westbound traffic on Riverfront Drive and Third Avenue will be closed between 6:50 and 7:30 p.m.," said Orehowsky, a retired Manatee High School teacher and cross country coach. "I have contacted every single business in the area."
The routes for the run:
n Three-mile race: Runners will begin at Fourth Avenue and Old Main and go one block north to Third Avenue and go east to Riverfront Boulevard to Second Street East, swinging around Manatee Memorial Hospital to Fourth Avenue East to Sixth Street East, to Riverside Drive to the Riverwalk. The final mile and a quarter west will be on the Riverwalk toBarcarrota, making a left on Old Main to the finish line.
n The one-mile run: Participants will begin at Third Avenue and Old Main and go east on Third Avenue to the CSX railroad tracks, turning left onto the lighted public walkway that goes to the Riverwalk and then proceed west on Riverwalk toBarcarrota, making a left on Old Main to the finish line.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1