Music was blasting, announcers spoke over a loudspeaker, and a crowd of people milled about in front of their house, which overlooks the starting line of the Anniston Runners Club’s Woodstock 5K.
“We knew about it, but we didn’t expect it,” Shree Owens said of the commotion outside that first year. “After that we began to get involved with it a little bit more and enjoy it.”
Over the years, she said, she and her husband have watched the race from their yard at the corner of Woodstock Avenue and 14th Street, usually turning the water hose on to cool off hot and exhausted runners passing by. When members of Saks Baptist Church, where the Owenses worship, ran the race, they offered to let their families watch from their yards and often have about 10 people join their cheering section on race day.
Last year, Jerry Owens stepped up their support of the race with a handmade Woodstock yard sign featuring the little yellow bird of Peanuts comic strip fame pointing in the direction of the race. Some of his neighbors saw his handiwork, and asked for signs for their yards as well.
Owens is a crafty guy. A former machinist at the Anniston Army Depot, he formerly put his precision skills to work cutting out and painting pins featuring area high school mascots and sold them locally. But as time wore on, he drifted from the hobby.
“It got to be more work than I wanted to do,” he said.
When the new Woodstock logo began appearing, he decided to revive his hobby and craft a few pins for neighbors to wear in support of the race.
Owens also filled requests for signs from his neighbors, including C.K. Huguley, who lives on Christine Avenue.
This year, Huguley’s elder daughter Kenya, 7, wanted to run in the Kidstock 1- mile race. The kids’ course loops around a four-block section of Woodstock and Christine avenues and right past their house, which will proudly feature Owens’ handmade sign.
“I didn’t realize it ran down our street, and so we were really excited about it,” Huguely said.
The race and the events that surround it, Huguley said, contribute to the sense of ownership and connection the residents have for their neighborhood, an experience she highly values for her two daughters.
“I hope in years to come,” she said, “they can say, ‘Oh Mom, remember when we did this?’”
“We’ve got a great neighborhood,” added Robert Downing, who lives one house down from Owens. “Everybody kind of knows each other and looks after each other and enjoys being where we are.”
Downing, who will also sport a Woodstock sign in his yard this year, described the neighborhood as one where runners, walkers, and children are constantly out on the sidewalks enjoying the atmosphere. The Woodstock 5K contributes to that, bringing a lot of nice people to their block, he said.
“We’re just so proud of the race, and we’re glad to support it,” Downing said. He said Jerry Owens’ signs add to that mix.
“We just like kind of feeding off the energy of the race, and we hope some of our energy feeds back into the race.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.