The musicians and entertainers who perform annually for the Portland Marathon follow in a very long tradition. The Portland Marathon was a pioneer in this, and has had amazing on-course entertainment for more than 20 years. Over these two decades the acts have included classical and jazz whistlers, an all women’s jug band, every kind of rock, blues and jazz, a Balkan folk music group, etc. And for much of this time the performers were among Portland’s most generous and long suffering citizens: they played and played and all they ever got was a volunteer T-shirt.
Around seven years ago some other nationally recognized marathons belatedly jumped on the entertainment bandwagon and Portland had to face a new reality. It had always been way out in front in the amount, variety and quality of the groups it offered, but now the competition was catching up. T-shirts alone would no longer suffice as compensation. Event Director Les Smith approached Peter Stott, one of Oregon’s major business leaders and philanthropists. Would Peter help out with budget assistance to allow the Marathon to unequivocally continue its claim to the national top rank in on-course entertainment? No sooner said than done.
Armed with a budget and some new enthusiasm provided by Marathon volunteer Dennis Bromka, the Marathon exploded with performers of all kinds. After setting a goal of at least one music stop per mile, the event now offers more than 80 groups spread over 53 locations. Unless one lists every single group, it really isn’t possible to convey the breadth of this. But consider at least the following: the race has a drum corps, a hand bell choir, two 18-piece big bands, a world champion baton twirler, beautiful, saucy cheerleaders, bagpipes, salsa, Christian rock, blues, jazz, rock, classical, mariachi, folk, calypso, harps, belly dancing, bluegrass, accordions, Dixieland, and many others.
If you survey 100 marathoners you’ll get 100 different favorite groups. Some of the groups amp you up, others inspire the soul, and many ease the pain. And it is universally true that the performers find this to be their most meaningful gig of the year. The courage and vitality of the runners and walkers reach them in a very special way.
None of this could happen without Peter Stott’s ongoing support and the good-hearted willingness of so many entertainers to get up early on one Sunday in October. The Marathon has climbed to the national pinnacle of on-course entertainment and will continue to provide the most innovative and high spirited performers. See you soon.
Our thanks again to all those groups that make our event so special. Enjoy!