Big Betsy unfolded to herald start of race
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—What does it take to get hundreds of Sanpete County residents up before the sunrise? The nation’s biggest flag and to support a good cause.
Scores of people descended on Gunnison City Park for the second annual United We March ruck race—now dubbed the “Gunnison Gut Check” on Saturday, Sept. 7.
The race, which is a fundraiser held in remembrance of 9/11 and to support America’s heroes, kicked off at 6:51 a.m., but not before a patriotic spectacle the likes of which has never been seen in Sanpete County.
Before the race, in the pre-sunrise darkness, scores of Gut Check participants and attendees hefted and shouldered the nation’s largest flag, Big Betsy, which is a quarter-acre in size and takes 100 people to unfold.
In solemn silence the flag was unfolded and spread taught across the field of the park as Chelsi Goulart sang the Star Spangled Banner. After the anthem, the flag was folded back up with reverence and put away to be taken and displayed elsewhere.
Next, retired U.S. Navy Seal Omar Vieira offered the crowd a patriotic motivational speech.
“If you aren’t proud to be American after that, I don’t know what you are,” Vieira said about the impressive display of Big Betsy.
The race got under way with the hero honors, where every veteran, law enforcement officer and first responder was invited to stand at the start gate as participants started the march by thanking them for their service.
“I really felt there was a greater feeling of patriotism and appreciation for our service members,” said Justin Mellor, event organizer. “Everyone came together, and seeing them all around that flag that morning was the greatest feeling. During the race it was incredible to see and hear people’s stories as they fought their battles with blisters, but kept going.”
Mellor said that $21,700 has been raised so far from this year’s event; more funds will come in and there are some final bills to pay. The proceeds will go to charities. Mellor said he was happy the way things turned out this year; attendance was way up and they plan on holding another Gunnison Gut Check next year.