ANDOVER — Trying to recreate the aura of the Feaster Five Road Race through a virtual event last Thanksgiving was a nice attempt. But it wasn’t the same.

There were no apple pies. There was no swarm of 500 young boys and girls running in the Kids K, with many competing for their first medal. Most of all, there wasn’t the energy of nearly 10,000 happy, thankful people gathered in Andover’s Shawsheen Square.

A great comeback story is on the horizon as the 34th annual Feaster Five Road Race — with all of the bells, whistles and, of course, 10,000 participants — is expected to return in full form on Thursday, Nov. 25.

“It is really gratifying to see the enthusiasm the community has shown for the return of our traditional race,” said Tom Licciardello, chairman of the organizing committee, and one of the founders of this epic event.

“The chance to once again gather with friends and family will be especially emotional for all of us this year,” said Licciardello. “Our race director, Dave McGillivray, and our entire organizing committee are excited to see all of our past participants and new, young and old, back again to celebrate a day of family, fitness and fun.”

The Feaster Five is more than any community road race, of course.

McGillivray is probably the most decorated race director in the country (see Boston Marathon), and this year’s Feaster will be his first, big race since pivoting his company (DMSE Sports Inc.) to overseeing operations for the COVID-19 vaccine clinics at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, the Reggie Lewis Center and the Hynes Convention Center.

“I’ve been saying all during this pandemic that the comeback is always stronger than the setback, and such will be the case with the annual Feaster Five Road Race,” he said. “It is such a thrill to once again be planning for this traditional Thanksgiving gathering of family and friends, and I know all the participants will be equally as thrilled to once again be running side-by-side with one another, showing the community that we are back and we are stronger than ever.”

Over the last 30 years, thousands of people have gathered their families to run or walk a 5K or 5-mile route weaving through downtown Andover and finishing at Andover Landing at Brickstone Square. All race finishers receive a Table Talk Apple Pie – a Feaster Five tradition.

The popular Kids K fun run attracts hundreds of youth participants to the track at Balmoral Park before the official start of the 5K/5 mile races. Leading up to the event, a three-day race expo includes shopping, sponsor booths, VIP book signings and more.

The Feaster Five is the big fundraiser for the Merrimack Valley Striders running club, and helps support 10 annual scholarships given by the club to local high school graduates. Additional beneficiaries of the 2021 race are the Merrimack Valley YMCA, Bellesini Academy of Lawrence, and Groundwork Lawrence.

Feaster Five Gold Sponsor Whirlaway Sports Center is offering an extra incentive for early race registrants this year: The first 300 people to sign up for the adult 5K/5 mile event will receive a $20 Whirlaway gift card.

How to register for Feaster Five

Visit the Feaster Five’s Website, www.feasterfive.com, and click on “Register today.” Online registration takes less than three minutes. Early registration also guarantees your spot in the 34th Annual Feaster Five and a high-quality technical T-shirt.

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