Houston & Peach

Hero Fest, Disaster Run in Perry to commemorate Sept. 11

A group of Robins Air Force Base airmen is organizing what could be Middle Georgia’s largest ever commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks.

It certainly is looking like it might be the most spectacular.

Hero Fest and Disaster Run are planned for Sept. 13 at the Guardian Centers in Perry. Ryan Starkey, the chairman of Hero Fest, said because it’s a first-year event, he isn’t sure how many people to expect, but he is planning for 10,000.

The idea formed when some airmen were discussing a community activity they could do because there is not an air show this year.

“We decided it would be an event to raise money for first responders,” said Starkey, master sergeant in the 461st Air Control Wing.

Once they reached out to the community about it, he said they had no end of support from civic organizations and businesses.

He stressed that the airmen are doing it as individuals, and the Air Force is not involved. Proceeds will benefit several charities for all types of emergency response personnel and the military. Organizers are planning to make it an annual event.

There are at least a couple of reasons to think the event could draw a fair crowd. It will be the first time the Guardian Centers will be open to the general public for tours of the mock city, built for emergency response training, and it will be in full disaster mode for the run. That includes flooded buildings, smoke, lots of wrecked vehicles and purpose-built demolished buildings.

The Disaster Run will be unlike any other run, says its organizer, American Preparedness Center of Atlanta. Chris Allen, part owner of the business, said he feels confident in making that claim.

“It’s the only place like this,” he said. “You can’t duplicate this anywhere else.”

The business sells emergency preparedness products as well as survival training and has trained clients at Guardian Centers. Located just off Interstate 75 on Perry Parkway, Guardian Centers is a privately owned facility for large-scale military and civilian disaster training. Movies have also been filmed there, but this will be its first public event.

The run will cover five miles and costs $99. It will include climbing over and through wrecked vehicles, subway cars, flooded homes and demolished buildings, as well as running through a wooded area and a simulated riot.

Allen and Jeff McCall, the race designer, were at Guardian Center on Thursday scoping out the race path.

The race is intended to give participants a taste of what it would be like if they had to run to escape a disaster. It will also include stopping to drag a mannequin and perform CPR.

There will be an “elite” race that will start a 8 a.m. for the seriously fit looking for a hard workout and possibly a cash prize if they win. The prize will be based on the number of runners.

At 9 a.m. there will be a less-strenuous intermediate race that most people at a reasonable fitness level should be able to complete, Allen said. It will cover the same path and distance, but people will have the option of going around obstacles and can take as long as they want to finish the race.

Hero Fest will include eight hours of live music, plus big screens that will show the Disaster Run, as well as the University of Georgia football game and other college football games.

The cost of admission is $10 per vehicle, which covers everyone in the vehicle. There will also be helicopter rides, a monster truck ride and tours of the mock city. Hero Fest will be in the front portion of the property, so the only access to the mock city, other than those in the race, will be through the tours.

Numerous vendors, including those selling emergency supplies, will be on hand, as well as food trucks.

For more information, go to www.disasterrun.com, or type HeroFest14 into the search bar on Facebook.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.