Opportunity Village made history when 11,221 participants dressed like Kris Kringle for the ninth annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run in Downtown Las Vegas on Saturday. Led by Grand Marshal Shania Twain, the iconic event beat its personal record and defeated Liverpool rivals for the World Santa Challenge championship.
“We were blown away by the outpouring of support from the Las Vegas community,” said Linda Smith, associate executive director of Opportunity Village. “This was truly one of our best events yet, and we look forward to keeping the momentum going into the run’s 10th year.”
Shania Twain, who currently headlines at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, looked glamorous in a white Santa hat and chic black and white cape.
“I want to give all of you a big thank you for supporting this beautiful cause,” she told the excited crowd as she beamed from Fremont Street Experience’s Third Street Stage.
After the national anthem, sung by “Jersey Boys” star Jeff Leibow, Twain guided the racers to the starting line on East Fremont Street, where she was escorted by none other than Santa Claus in a shiny, red Jeep “sleigh” provided by Sahara Chrysler Dodge Jeep. Twain led the traditional “on your mark, get set, go!” countdown to start the race and the thousands of runners took off for the 5K, followed shortly by a one-mile Kris Kringle Jingle walk.
In honor of the event’s return to Downtown Las Vegas, Mayor Carolyn Goodman declared the morning’s festivities as the city’s official Las Vegas Great Santa Run Day. Representatives from Liverpool’s Santa Dash were on-hand to award the World Santa Challenge trophy to Opportunity Village, which has now held the coveted title for nine years. Shania Twain’s Great Santa Run team won the prize for the most funds raised and the Venetian/Palazzo took the title of the largest race team.
Throughout the day, racers were treated to acts from Las Vegas’ hottest performers: Jabbawockeez taught the Santas a special dance as part of their #CokeRedMoves campaign and had everyone grooving with the official Coca-Cola polar bear; Zumba girls, Kat & J-John, warmed up the audience with exciting aerobics; Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie had the crowd singing along to holiday classics; Opportunity Village’s “OV Elvi” drummed and danced to some of Elvis’ greatest hits; and George Dare belted out event’s official theme song, “Run, Santa, Run!”
Hungry racers stopped by food truck Lobster ME for a post-race bite, and event sponsors Krispy Kreme, Circle K Convenience Stores, Jamba Juice and Core Power provided runners with free food samples throughout the morning. The fun continued after the race as Hennessey’s Las Vegas hosted the official Great Santa Run after party.
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