Any visit to the town of Milton in the western Florida panhandle can be a trip back into time since the seat of Santa Rosa County is so richly steeped in history.
However, on Saturday, Oct. 5, locals and visitors alike will celebrate a truly unique occasion, the 100th anniversary of Milton’s historic Imogene Theatre, the city’s original opera house built in 1913. The grand facility, which is preserved and maintained by the Santa Rosa Historical Society, will open at 8 a.m. and host tours throughout the day leading up to another of the town’s more popular annual events.
The Riverwalk Run 5K will culminate the historic day as an anticipated 700-plus people will participate in a refreshing, late-afternoon 3.1-mile run/walk through the town’s historical and cultural districts, including the majestic backdrop of the Blackwater River. The fifth-annual event begins at 5 p.m. and, because of the moderate autumn temperatures, provides one of the most enjoyable road race/walk experiences in the region.
“We do something a little unique in that we stage the run later in the daytime,” Milton Parks & Recreation Director John Norton says. “We’re starting to see other running events trend to afternoon start times.”
The 2013 race takes runners along a route of paved streets, a concrete trail and a wooden boardwalk overlooking the river.
“The neat thing about our run is the transition it makes from the downtown area to the trails and woods outside of town,” Norton says. “As runners re-enter town, they run through some of our older homes on Pine Street and Oak Street. The scenery over the entire run is really nice.”
The event is certified by the United States Track and Field (USTF) governing body and can be utilized to post a certified race time. Presented by the Milton Parks & Recreation Department, run proceeds benefit department activities including youth sports and activities for seniors. The event has raised almost $40,000 since 2008.
“We use our (youth) football and cheerleading coaches as volunteers to stage the run,” Norton says. “We put the majority of the money back into their programs by buying the cheerleaders things like megaphones, signs, pom-poms, partial payments on their uniforms. For the football players, we help offset costs of helmets, shoulder pads and pants.
“The other part of the proceeds goes toward supporting other free events in the downtown area. Some goes to events like Bands On The Blackwater, movie nights and other community activities.”
History buffs that spend the day or weekend in the area will have ample time to enjoy many of the historic sites. Milton, which was incorporated 169 years ago in 1844 and was once known as ‘Scratch Ankle’ (because of the briars and bramble so common in the area), is home to such noted attractions as Naval Air Station Whiting Field, where U.S. Navy pilots undergo training; the West Florida Railroad Museum; the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Preserve; Bagdad Village (boyhood home of 2012 Masters golf champion Bubba Watson); the Imogene Theatre; Adventures Unlimited; and, of course, the Blackwater River, where early trade and commerce led to the city’s settlement.
Known as the ‘Canoe Capital of Florida,’ Milton attracts water and nature lovers to the area’s many rivers, creeks and bays year-round. With the proper planning, a visitor can embark on a three-hour canoe trip in the morning, see the local sites, then arrive in plenty of time for the 5 p.m. Riverwalk Run 5K.
Late registration is at the Milton Community Center on Oct. 1 between 4 and 7 p.m. or on Oct. 3 between 4 to 7 p.m. at Academy Sports and Outdoors at University Mall in Pensacola.
Race-day registration/packet pickup will be Oct. 5 at the Riverwalk Pavilion on South Willing Street between 4 p.m. and 4:45. T-shirts for late registration are not guaranteed.
Cash prizes of $250 will be awarded to the male and female participants that establish new course records. The men’s record of 15 minutes, 46 seconds was set two years ago by Nate Crum. The ladies’ record of 20:27 was established in 2010 by Sandra Ebanks.
Another randomly selected participant also will be given $250. Runners, walkers and wheelchair participants are eligible to win. A random bib number will be selected at the awards ceremony after the race, and the lucky participant must be present to win.
Overall winners in various categories will receive plaques. Age-group winners will receive specially-designed medals.
The Riverwalk Run 5K is part of the annual Beaches To Woodlands Tour, sponsored by the Santa Rosa Tourist Development Council. The tour showcases the diverse cultural and recreational opportunities of the county.
If you go:
- Event: City of Milton Riverwalk 5k Run
- Date: Oct. 4
- Time: 5 p.m.
- Details: To learn more, log on to www.riverwalkrun5K.com or visit www.thebeachestowoodlandstour.com.