Most holidays are deeply rooted in tradition, and in Winter Park, Colo., the 4th of July is certainly no different. Families and friends flock from all over Colorado and the rest of the country to spend a weekend in the mountains; perhaps enjoying time spent on the water of Lake Granby, downhill mountain biking at Winter Park Resort, and, of course, the fireworks displays at either Grand Lake or Hideaway Park. There are few better places to celebrate our country’s pride of independence than the Rocky Mountains – a place where freedom to enjoy yourself is never hard to find.

But if you have visited Winter Park in recent years, you will know that the 4th of July weekend cannot officially commence without the annual Rendezvous Race for Independence. An event that has truly become a tradition for kicking off the long, holiday weekend, the Race for Independence had yet another successful year, hosting over 400 competitors who raced from the Vintage Hotel at Winter Park Resort to the Rendezvous community this past Saturday, July 1, 2017.

The crowd gathered outside of the Vintage just before 9 a.m. to find a spot behind the starting gate. Competitors and spectators alike were adorned with vibrant colors of red, white and blue; some even waving their American flags high in the air as they eagerly waited for the start. And perhaps the most important color out there was the blue in the sky – a welcomed sight in contrast to 2016’s gray and rain-soaked event. In fact, this year there was hardly a cloud to be seen, and competitors agreed that they could not have asked for any better Rocky Mountain weather to be running in.

As the starting whistle finally blew, competitors blasted through the gate, beginning their five-mile trek from the resort and toward the property of Rendezvous. Dropping in elevation from Winter Park to Fraser, the competitors (and the many furry, dog friends who joined too) cruised along the downhill-oriented course, weaving through the dense trees of the Fraser River Trail and into the expansive valley views of downtown Winter Park.  While many runners jockeyed toward the front of the pack striving for a first-place finish or record time, others found solace in simply hanging back and taking in the scenery. And who could really blame them?

Making their way through Winter Park and finally into Fraser, the competitors found the finish line at Rendezvous where they were greeted with supportive family, friends, and of course, quality snacks, refreshments and prizes made possible by the Rendezvous community. Many racers were eager to see improved times from years past, and everyone seemed excited to have been a part of a great event, which strives to benefit its local community and those in need.

The Run for Independence, which has been a collaborative effort between Rendezvous and the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, benefits the Scott Hughes Foundation – an organization that works in conjunction with the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Denver to financially assist children with kidney disease, and to provide camp scholarships at the YMCA of the Rockies’ Camp Chief Ouray at Snow Mountain Ranch. It is truly a great event to not only celebrate America’s independence, but to celebrate the children and families in search of independence from kidney disease.