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Farewell to the great race

By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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In the early 1300s, English author Geoffrey Chaucer coined the famous phrase still used today — “All good things must come to end.” Last weekend, many of us in the region  bid farewell to an iconic event that was truly a good thing and has ultimately come to an end.

The Eppie’s Great Race officially ran, paddled and cycled its course on Saturday. After experiencing a continuous decline in participation through the years, it was announced as the 45th edition of this area classic that benefited a good cause.

After the announcement the event would be the last, a record number of entries filled the roster as participants scurried to make the trek one final time. Undoubtedly, the event went out on top, as all great events should.

The Eppie’s Great Race featured participants from all over California  year after year, hundreds of which were from right here in Placer County. The event was founded by Eppie Johnson, owner of the Eppie’s coffee shop chain, in 1974 as a promotion for his restaurants with a dual purpose as a fundraiser. However, the fundraising has always taken priority over the business promotion since the inception of this event.

Through the decades, this race has raised $1.2 million for Sacramento County Therapeutic Recreation Services, which provides activities for people with developmental disabilities in the county and beyond.

Although the event is no longer, the Eppies Foundation plans to continue funding for SCTRS, according to George Johnson, Eppie’s son. Johnson also told the media that despite the overwhelming response on Saturday, there are no plans to reverse their decision to discontinue the event. A great event that was the brainchild of great business leader, respectfully, goes out on top.

“My dad always said that Eppie’s Great Race had woven its way into the fabric of the community,” read a statement from the second generation Johnson. “But things change, and the time has come for other events to weave their way into that fabric for a new generation.”

The decline in participants came from an abundance of similar running events in the area. Undoubtedly, new events of this type will come along to fill the void for those who compete. However, regardless of what that is, one can never replace the legacy that was built by a coffee shop owner who had a vision.

The Johnson family is to be commended for all they have done with this event. Even after the downsizing of the family restaurant chain through the years and the continuing decline of participation, they carried on to continue presenting something truly special to the community, all for a good cause. 

Thank you, Eppie Johnson, the Johnson family and all of the many volunteers who have made this special event happen each year. The community needs more events like this in the future — events in which the philanthropic goal outweighs the promotional value of those behind it. 

Bill Sullivan is the Associate Publisher at Gold Country Media.