ILWACO — On Saturday, June 10, people of all ages came out to paint the town red — and yellow and orange and blue — during the “color run” at Black Lake.

The event, which was sponsored by the nonprofit Wellspring Community Network, drew more than 130 racers, Wellspring Coalition Coordinator Vinessa Karnofski said.

Because Wellspring focuses on programs and issues affecting youth, organizers wanted to make the event accessible to kids and teens, Karnofski said. Local youth participated for free. Proceeds from adult entry fees and donations will benefit “YAK” program, which provides free activities nights for local teens.

The five-kilometer race emphasized fun rather than competition. As runners left the starting line in Black Lake Park, volunteers showered them in clouds of brilliantly dyed cornstarch. Volunteers at “color stations” blasted them with still more of the neon “paint.” Color Run promoters say the color powder is harmless, but many racers still wore sunglasses to protect their eyes and held their breath as they ran through the stations. By the time they reached the finish line, participants were covered from head to toe in color.

“Fun runs” of all kinds are becoming an increasingly popular pastime. Color runs — sometimes called “paint races” — caught on in the U.S. several years ago, as Utah-based Color-Run, LLC and other event producers began promoting the races as positive, family-friendly events. Thousands of paint races now take place around the world each year. Some include special themes, or glow-in-the-dark paint.

Paint races were inspired by Holi, a springtime Hindu festival that originated in India and Nepal. For observant Hindus, Holi starts as a meaningful religious occasion that emphasizes themes of renewal, forgiveness and thankfulness. After more formal ceremonies have taken place, participants take to the streets for a free-for-all color festival, in which no one is safe from being drenched with water guns or water balloons, and showered in a rainbow of colored powders.

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