SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane - and Bloomsday - just isn't what it used to be. Every year, with the advent of Bloomsday the Lilac City opens welcomes visitors from all over the country, and all over the world.
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Bloomies beckon from African countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania. And those are just the elite runners. Take a short stroll through the Bloomsday trade show downtown, and you'll run into participants from Edmonton, Alberta; Santa Barbara, Calif., and Montreal. That's just the beginning.
According to one of the race registrars, there is at least one contestant from every state in the union except for New Hampshire, Vermont and South Carolina.
"I don't know what's wrong there," said Rand Palmer, registrar. "Nobody lives there, or they don't run."
Of the 50,000 runners and walkers taking part in this year's race, about 10,000 are from out-of-staters or from Canada. Those figures are surprisingly higher than they were last year, even with an economy in the dumps. There were roughly 48,000 participants in 2008.
If you plan on driving downtown, be aware that several streets will be blocked off to traffic. Several streets in the downtown area will be shut down around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Other streets on the Bloomsday course will close around 8 a.m. and reopen after the final walkers pass.
Spokane Transit plans on providing Bloomsday shuttle service, just like it did last year. Buses board from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Riders can catch a bus at Spokane Valley Mall, Ferris High School, Northtown Mall or Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
Return trips begin at 10:30 a.m. and end at 2:00 p.m., loading between 1st Ave. between Post and Stevens.
The weather for Bloomsday will start out dry and mild. At race time it should be mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 40s. A stronger system will arrive Sunday afternoon with showers and 30mph gusts of wind.