‘Firecracker’ bigger and backer for Bethany 5K

Coastal Point • File Photo: The Firecracker 5K is back to support the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade.Coastal Point • File Photo: The Firecracker 5K is back to support the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade.It may have looked all but terminated, but the Bethany Firecracker 5K will officially be back this Sunday, June 25 — now, and for the future, too.

After a one-year hiatus, the annual family-friendly race to help support the family-friendly Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade and help kick-off the Independence Day week’s festivities will return under USAT race directors Rick Hundley and Ernie Felici of Focus Multisports — who bring with them an array of experience putting together larger-scale races, including the Coastal Delaware Running Festival and Bethany Beach First-Responders Tri-Du-Aquabike.

The event, originally put on by long-time race director Greg Mavraganis, had become a vital part of the parade and its own Bethany Beach tradition since launching in 2009, but extenuating circumstances forced its cancelation in 2016.

“It was kind of heartbreaking when we found out it was getting canceled last year,” said Hundley. “So we met with Greg, and we told him that we’d love to keep the tradition going as part of the Fourth of July celebration in Bethany.”

Always intending the Firecracker to support the community, Mavraganis and his family appreciated the support from the community after the Firecracker’s first-ever cancelation, refunding all race fees and assuring participants that the race would return in 2017.

In a letter to the Coastal Point last June, Mavraganis stated: “And although it is unfortunate to have to cancel this event, it’s also been touching to hear the encouragement from the participants. Several asked if there is anything they can do and even offered to help volunteer for the 2017 race. If there has been a silver lining, it is the warm response from participants upon hearing the news that we canceled the race.”

Former participants themselves, the team at Focus Multisports was more than willing to heed the call and add the race to their already extensive calendar, to keep that tradition alive.

“Greg kind of handed us the keys to the kingdom over to us and told us to have fun with it,” said Hundley. “We like the town and the parade, obviously, so we definitely didn’t want to see it in jeopardy.

“I remember the first year he hosted this race — it was kind of a college project for him, and then he saw what it meant to the town and just kept putting it on year after year. I’ve run it several years. My kids have run it. It was just kind of a fun old-school 5K race to kick off the Fourth of July.”

While the race will still benefit the town’s annual Fourth of July Parade (now heading into its 33rd year), Hundley and his crew are bringing with them their signature Focus Multisports touch to get the Firecracker back off the ground.

The Firecracker festivities will get under way with a packet pick-up and pre-race-day happy-hour at Baja Beach House Grill on Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 24.

Registration will remain open until the starting gun, with another packet-pickup scheduled on race day at the Bethany Beach bandstand on the boardwalk from 6:15 to 7 a.m., with the race officially getting under way with a 7:15 a.m. start.

Participants are free to run, walk or even push a stroller to help support the cause, with age-group awards, overall awards, tech shirts, music and snacks during and after the race, and a post-race breakfast back at Baja afterwards, with 20 percent off checks for all racers.

Early this week, volunteers were still needed for race day, with local kids looking for community-service hours for honor society and other organizations for the school year and members of the community looking to give back all being encouraged to come out and lend a hand.

“Our volunteers are always appreciated and always have a great time. A lot of folks will be coming in for the week, so we kind of look at it like the kick-off to Fourth of July week,” said Hundley. “We are more than happy to be able to help the tradition continue.”

For more information, to volunteer or to register, visit www.bethanybeach5k.com. For more on Focus Multisports and upcoming races, visit www.focusmultisports.com.