Ring in the New Year by participating in the 21st annual Chilly Chili Run, known as the “Showcase for 90+ year-old legends who run, compete, inspire,” with proceeds benefitting the Woodbridge Amity Teen Center.

“We were the first 5K race in the United States to have three 90+ year olds participate and finish the 3.1 mile course,” explained race director of 20 years Joe Riccio. “It has become a tradition on New Year’s Day and this year we will continue to have three or four of these elite runners coming out to run.”

The Chilly Chili Run, to be held at 10:30 am Jan. 1, 2018 at the High Plains Community Center, 525 Orange Center Road, Orange, offers a 5K and a 2 Mile Fitness Walk, followed traditionally by a hot chili brunch.

“When Stew Leonard’s was trying to come into Orange, he donated $10,000 to the Chilly Chili Race trying to make an impression,” said Riccio. “The didn’t put the race on the following year. When they wanted to start it up again, it was suggested to (organizers) Jane Opper and Linda Cohen that they speak with me and that’s how I got involved in it 20 years ago.”

“The Amity Teen Center was formed in 1987. We had a building in Orange from 1987-1996 which belonged to the Town. When the Town expanded their Fire Department we lost the building which was knocked down,” explained Opper, volunteer president of the Teen Center Board of Directors. Needing a new location, “We started holding fundraisers and in 1997 we held our first Chilly Chili Run to raise money for the Teen Center. In 2005 we were able to buy a building in Woodbridge which had been repossessed by the bank. We are constantly holding fundraisers and have an annual appeal.”

The Amity Teen Center, 10 Selden Street, Woodbridge, serves high school students between the ages of 13-19 and offers a unique youth venue fusing two genres of entertainment - live music and video games - boasting some of the “hottest musical acts on the large stage with a full lighting rig and premium sound system, lounge on the couches, play a variety of games and socialize with friends. We also feature multiple gaming stations, pool, foosball, a basketball court, live bands, open mics, improv nights, slam poetry readings, performing arts and have Ed’s Café.”

“Seven years ago I introduced the first class of 90-year-olds and 70’s and 80’s,” noted Riccio. “They come out in pretty good numbers! Between the walkers and the runners participating in the race we have in excess of 600-650 people registered. We didn’t have those kinds of numbers before, we had around 400 each year but when we brought in the class of 90-year-olds, it kind of sparked a lot of people. A lot of people come out to cheer too and marvel at these guys!” The youngest runners to participate in the twelve and under division have been seven-year-olds.

“Proceeds made in the past were approximately $10,000, however our expenses have gone up so last year we made about $7,000,” continued Opper. “We were very happy and everybody has a good time!”

“On a consistent basis we are always pretty close to making eight - ten thousand dollars, it’s all predicated on the sponsors, you don’t make money on the runners alone,” added Riccio. “We serve up about 16 different types of chili each year and pastries and breads, coffee, cocoa, and waters of course. We have the BEST post-race buffet ever!”

New this year, the event will host author, John Silver.

“John Silver in 2015 came to the Chilly Chili race and I saw him walking around and talking to some of our older runners. Someone pointed me out and he came over to me and said ‘I want to write a book about the older runners.’ You want to talk to 70-90 year-olds I said, not 50-60’s,” laughed Riccio. “He did write the book (”The Ageless Runner, Keys to Their Success, Health & Longevity,” sold on Amazon) and he’s coming this year to the Chilly Chili and will be doing a book signing. In his book, he identified 17 Connecticut runners in the age group from 70-90.”

“I wrote the book basically because their stories are so amazing,” said Silver. “The stories that they told me included explaining why they felt they were able to run as long as they have. They say the keys to their success, health and longevity is keeping the body in motion. They tell the stories which are funny and some are sad - they really tell their stories in their own words to an extent as well.”

“We are the first 5K race held in Southern Connecticut every year. We would love people to come to do it, it’s a good course and we have a big party afterward and it supports a good cause - the Teen Center,” said Opper. “We have thousands of kids that enjoy different activities throughout the year at the center. I’ve been involved since 1995 when one of my daughters volunteered me.”

“For the first five years after joining the race, I was looking at the T-shirts and decided the mascot was ugly,” laughed Riccio, who redesigned the popular award winning long sleeved tee-shirts designated to the first 100 registered participants.

Participants may register online at www.hitekracing.com until Dec. 26. Entry fees are $27 for runners, $15 for runners age 12 and under, and $15 for the 2 Mile Fitness Walk. Applications are also available at the Orange Parks & Rec Office. Early packet pick-up will be held Friday, Dec. 29 at the High Plains Community Center from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Race day registration begins at 8:30 a.m. For more info email: chillychilirun@hotmail or contact Race Director Joe Riccio at 203-481-7453.