Melvinfest promises much for many



June 8, 2011 - 12:00 AM

The third annual Charley Melvin Mad Bomber Run for your Life is fast approaching.
Already 50 people have signed on for the 5-kilometer dash, which will start at 12:26 a.m. on Saturday, July 9. This time a year ago none was registered.
“We’d like to have 1,000 runners this year,” said David Toland, Thrive Allen County executive director. “We’re grateful the field is building so quickly and we’re encouraging everyone in Allen County to recruit others for the race.”
Last year’s race drew 603 contestants, representing five states and 62 Kansas towns, including all in Allen County except Savonburg.
Registration for the 5K run, as well as the 3K walk, will be open from 5 p.m. until midnight on July 8. Cost is $10.
A change this year will upgrade the run to the level of events in sophisticated arenas.
Each runner will be given a chip to wear that will track times and permit quick determination of placings, said Mike Ford, one of the Melvin committee members.
The results will be posted on a new Web site for the event, which may be found now at
First, second and third places in five age categories — 15 and under, 16-30, 31-45, 46-60 and 61 and over — for both males and females will be recognized, as will the top male and female overall. Trophies will be “sticks” of dynamite, including ones 30 inches long for the top two competitors.
 The Melvin festival, which includes much more than the run, will be the 106th anniversary of madman dynamiting three saloons, the Eagle, the Red Light and the Blue Front on West Street in downtown Iola.
Iola in 1905 was a wild and rowdy place, with a large industrial base and several illegal saloons, which irritated Melvin to no end. He left home the night before the early morning attacks with an ample supply of dynamite, more than enough to create substantial damange. Explosions at the saloons awoke folks for miles around.
Later, 1,500 pounds of dynamite were found to have been stolen from the Kansas Portland Cement Co.
The Register reported: “For blocks around, plate glass was shattered and brick walls were wrenched and cracked. It is estimated that total damage will be around $100,000. … The county (courthouse) clock was put out of commission.”
No one was killed, but the three saloons were wrecked; brick walls crumbled and goodness knows how many bottles of liquor were smashed to smithereens.
To the advantage of older attendees, who might have difficulty staying alert until the wee hours of Saturday morning, the story of Melvin’s misdeeds will be told in detail by Clyde Toland, long a voice of Iola history, at 8 p.m. Friday, 4 1/2 hours ahead of the race. It will be Toland’s first public appearance since he suffered a stroke last June.

THE CELEBRATION came off in 2010 with about 30 Melvin descendants on hand and giving their blessings.
“It was a destructive event but the support of the Melvin family has made it a positive one” in today’s farmework, David Toland noted.
This year’s event promises to be even more robust.
A carnival featuring inflatables on the courthouse lawn will be a destination for kids and a fundraiser for the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility. It will start at 4 p.m. on Friday, as will other pre-race portions of the event.
At 7 p.m. a bucket brigade relay and fire truck pull will give historical notation to Melvin’s bombing. Firefighters in 1905 rallied to deal with the devastation on West Street.
More for fun than competition will be the second annual “Drag” race, which will have some of the area’s gentleman dandies dressed in women’s clothing — and vice versa — and chugging over their course starting at 9 p.m. Next up will be Dy-no-mite stick relay races, all in the name of fun.
Not all things on the schedule will require exertion.
Depending on weather conditions, a hot air balloon will be tethered downtown for rides at $10 a pop.
“The balloon rides will be on a first-come, first-served basis,” Ford noted.
An outdoor movie, as with last year, will be shown on the courthouse lawn starting at 9 p.m.
Earlier in the evening, starting at 5:30, car fanciers will show off their vehicles on Washington Avenue.
Entertainment will be provided during the evening by a select group from the Iola Municipal Band, as well as a barbershop quartet.
All activities except the inflatables carnival will be sponsored by Thrive and Allen County Crime Stoppers.

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