Posted November 15, 2004 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Events

Chile Pepper Festival mourning

Those involved with the Chile Pepper Festival are mourning the loss of three workers who died as a result of an accident Thursday morning at the University of Arkansas Cross Country Course, race founder Joe Fennel said Friday, but the region’s oldest and largest cross country event will go on as planned. “Yesterday was a terrible, terrible day for our [Chile Pepper] family,” Fennel said in a prepared statement, read at the site of the accident. “More importantly, yesterday was a horrendous day for the families of the men who were killed or injured in the accident. Nothing we can say here will soothe the loss for the families who lost loved ones.”

Fennel said the race will be ran in honor of the three men who died — Kevin D. White of Fayetteville, Roderick M. Cook of Cave Springs and David G. Koch of Springdale. Each of the men were employees of Party InTents, a local company hired to assemble tents for the event.

White, Cook and Koch died from injuries suffered when a tent support pole came into contact with a high voltage wire.

Three others, Anthony McEntire of Fayetteville, Chris Wilson of Huntsville and Bruce Dunn of Fayetteville, were injured in the accident. All three were treated and released from Washington Regional Medical Center on Friday.

Dunn, a local promoter, has served as the event’s race director for the past year. “We ask everyone involved in the Chile Pepper to pray for those families and to support them in any way we can,” Fennel said. “These were all fine men who were simply doing their job.

” Our hearts mourn for these families in the loss of their loved ones. We all hope that our friends injured yesterday will fully recover from this tragedy. “

More than 3,000 runners are expected to compete in the event which begins today with an open 5k race and fun run/walk at 8 a.m.

A number of collegiate and high school races follow, featuring several local teams. The event should wrap up around 1 p.m. with an awards ceremony.

The Chile Pepper Festival is an event that takes yearlong planning. More than 120 high school teams, 71 collegiate squads and 600 individuals from across the nation are registered to race.

Fennel said there was never a thought of canceling the event to his knowledge.

Fennel, a local restaurateur, said the accident victims will be appropriately honored at the event and asked that all competitors and spectators to wear a black ribbon in honor the men who were killed.

Fennel, Randy Rhine and Kelly O’Meara founded the event 16 years ago in an effort to raise funds for local high school cross country teams.

Fennel courted Arkansas ’ cross country teams to hold their home meet in conjunction with the event and ever since the festival has been one of the few annual home events for the Razorbacks and Lady Razorbacks ’ nationally known cross country squads.

” The Chile Pepper is always the highlight of our regular season schedule, “said legendary Razorback cross country and track coach John McDonnell.” It is always two weeks before our conference meet and is a great barometer for where our team is at. “

UA women’s cross country coach Lance Harter said the Chile Pepper race has set the standard for such events around the country.

” The Chile Pepper is a great event that others have tried to copy, “said Harter, who was recently inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame.” They have tried a similar event at Stanford and North Carolina, but they are not on par with the Chile Pepper. You’re lucky to get any water there. Here, they feed everyone. As for results at those races, good luck finding them. ”

Chile Pepper parking will be located at Washington County Fairgrounds, the Whittaker Equine Center and Agri Park, which are all located on Arkansas 112.

UA transit buses will shuttle participants from the parking lots to the drop-off point near the course from 6:30-10:30 a.m. It is a halfmile walk from the parking area to the starting line.

2004 Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival 8 a.m., Chile Pepper Open (10k) 8:05 a.m., Fun run/Walk (1 mile) 9 a.m., Open Awards Ceremony 9:30 p.m., Men’s Collegiate Race (10k) 10:30 p.m., Women’s Collegiate Race (6k) 11 a.m., High School Boy’s Open (5k) 11:05 a.m., Collegiate Awards Ceremony 11:30 a.m., High School Girls Open (4k) 12 p.m., High School Girl’s Open (4k) , Junior High Girls Division (4k) 12:30 p.m., High School Girl’s Invitational (4k) 1 p.m., High School Awards Ceremony

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog