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Great Lehighton Race Math proved a struggle but sauerkraut was the largest hurdle for 4 of the 23 teams in competition

  • RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Todd Zimmerman, right, coordinator of the Great Lehighton Race for the Lehighton Downtown Initiative Committee, checks verification forms of Linda Hydro and her partner, Fred Kemmerer. Hydro and Kemmerer finished first in the…
    RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Todd Zimmerman, right, coordinator of the Great Lehighton Race for the Lehighton Downtown Initiative Committee, checks verification forms of Linda Hydro and her partner, Fred Kemmerer. Hydro and Kemmerer finished first in the competition.
Published September 24. 2011 09:01AM

It was a last minute decision for Linda Hydro and Fed Kemmerer - a niece and her uncle - to enter the Great Lehighton Race this year.

Although they were the last team to enter, they were the first to finish.

The Great Lehighton Race, a walk-and-run event covering a distance of nearly five-miles, was sponsored by the Lehighton Downtown Initiative Committee. The funds raised go toward a paving project around the fountain of the Lehighton Park.

A total of 23 two-person teams competed for a grand prize of $1,000 that the committee put up.

The race meant walking or running around the community, checking landmarks, looking at building cornerstones, knowing some history and geography, and doing a little math.

Coordinator Todd Zimmerman, president of the LDIC, put together the course and came up with the questions.

What made the finish by Hydro and Kemmerer especially impressive is that Hydro has a screw in her foot and will be having additional surgery in October. This didn't deter her.

The teams consisted of high school friends, husbands and wives, boy friends and girl friends, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, and, of course, an uncle and his niece.

Kemmerer and Hydro did the route in two hours and 26 minutes (2:26).

In second place were Jeff and Trevor Miller, a father and son team. They competed in the first such race last year and took a third-place prize. Their second this year was accomplished in 2:32.

"This year was more challenging," Trevor commented.

Third place this year belonged to Dan Oswald and his wife, Nora, who managed the course in 2:43.

While math proved a struggle for some of the teams, it was sauerkraut which created the biggest hurdle.

All teams had to stop at the Castle Grill and eat two one-pound containers of sauerkraut. Refusal meant a six-hour penalty.

Four of the teams dropped out instead of eating this.

Jeff Miller said last year the competitors had to eat pierogies, which was much more pleasant than the Pa. Dutch fare served this year.

Dan Oswald said he feels it was the sauerkraut which helped he and his wife garner third place. Looking pale and not feeling well, he admitted eating both his and his wife's share. He noted that he likes sauerkraut, although that large amount was a bit hard to digest.

He said the younger participants especially seemed bothered by the dish.

One of the volunteers serving the 'kraut' noted that some of the participants needed buckets to handle what they couldn't.

Zimmerman said as part of a beautification project in the park, paving bricks are planned around the entire fountain. People can have memorial pavers or recognition bricks installed for a fee. For more information, contact Zimmerman at 570-778-2384 or

The race consisted of 13 clues and began at the Band Shell in the Upper Borough Park.

No cell phones or GPS devices could be utilized.

The first stop was the Lower Park where participants had to identify photos of 10 U.S. presidents.

Next was to go to Union Street, and then an alley where they had to find the only Lehighton alley named for a president (Grant Alley).

Competitors had to go through the business district to find answers, to the western part of town where school buildings exist, and numerous points in between. The route was done by walking or running.

There were four "road blocks," which had mental or physical challenges - including the math calculating.

Kemmerer said they had been at a football game the night before the race, heard that their children were participating, and thought it would be fun being in the race themselves.

The victory didn't come easy.

Participants had to get forms at every leg as verification they met the Great Lehighton Race requirements. When completed, they had to have 13 pieces of paper.

Kemmerer and Hydro were excited when they found out they were finishing first. They held their arms high in the air as they descended the concrete steps of the amphitheater and ran toward the officials' table. They handed the papers to the judges, and then discovered one was missing.

They argued briefly over who was in charge of keeping the forms. Then, the missing sheet was found and they were declared the winners.

One of the youngest teams included Andrea Schafer and McKenna Knappenberger, both 13. Both are Lehighton Middle School students.

They said that after competing last year "it was fun; we really liked it."

Although they didn't win, they did have an impressive finish, probably in the top seven.

Zimmerman said he will begin planning now for next year's Great American Race.

He said he isn't sure what questions will be included or what the exact route will be.

There is one thing certain about next year's race. It won't have sauerkraut.

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