Fifty years ago, David Bale, David Hildreth and Dennis Lobo met in the Bales’ kitchen and organized a race to be held on Earth Day that year. The year was 1971, it was the very first Earth Day, and the road race they planned started a tradition that celebrated its 50th year on Sept. 18. The race was Bale’s passion, and he made sure it included the McLean Game Refuge as part of its course, which it still does.
For almost 30 years, Hildreth was the race chairman. He passed the baton to Dan Hausmann from East Granby for a decade, and then Dave Schupp took the job for a few years, but was happy to turn it over to the YMCA, which has continued its sponsorship for the past 10 years.
The night before the race, Schupp invited friends and supporters over to his home to honor the founders of the race. Bale and Hildreth have passed on, but Lobo is still manning the starting line as he has done for 48 of the past 50 years and was present for the festivities.
Harold Sparrow, CEO of the Greater Hartford YMCA, spoke in praise of the three founders. Brian Liss, Executive Director of the Farmington Valley Y in Granby, presented individual proclamations from the State of Connecticut legislature and plaques from the YMCA honoring each of the three. Dave’s son, Ned Hildreth, came down from Maine to represent his dad; Rachel Lobo attended with her dad, and Vicki Bale was at the race representing her dad.
Perhaps the most emotional of the honors was the announcement that the race committee had decided to name special places on the race course to honor both the founders and Dave Schupp, Jr. who lost his life 33 years ago when hit by a car while jogging. Signs were placed in September’s race indicating the Dennis Lobo Start Line, the David Schupp, Jr. Memorial Mile, Hildreth Hill and the David Bale Finish Line.
Glasses of Trail Sipper Pale Ale, a special beer brewed by the Maple View Farm for the occasion, were raised in honor of the 50th race. It was a proper ending to a celebration 50 years in the making.