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Runners, gardeners enjoy early spring feeling in Twin Cities

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BLOOMINGTON — Dozens of gardeners got psyched for the season and scads of runners circled Miller Park on Saturday for a taste of spring  two weeks before it officially starts.

Nate Holten, an Illinois State University graduate biology student, was among the 337 participants in the Miller Park Zoo Stampede 5K run Saturday.

“I finished in the middle of the pack,” he said. The fastest runner took little more than 16 minutes to complete the race.

He runs regularly year-round but can barely wait to get on the golf course.

One of the zoo’s biggest annual fundraisers, the Stampede raised more than $7,000, said Tina Kohn, race director of the 15th annual run. Kohn cheered runners to the finish line.

Another 90 children participated in the Critter Crawl, double the number that crossed the finish line last year.

Carson Bliss, 6, cheered on the 5K race runners, wearing a gold medal he had earlier earned for completing the shorter Critter Crawl.

“When I grow up I’m going to run 3 miles,” he told his father, Barry Bliss, and sister Caitlyn, 4, of Clinton. His mom is Dr. Jeanette Romanowski, the zoo’s veterinarian.

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Dave and Dava Zschau found themselves amid the runners by happenstance. Neighbors to Miller Park, they walk the same route daily.

Last week when the couple happened upon the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Polar Plunge at the park, she decided that since they were there, she would plunge. This week, they similarly joined the runners as walkers.

All this exercise will help Dava Zschau along with Bloomington Junior High School staff members in their effort to get fit and healthy this spring.

“I said I wouldn’t go out (walking) until it was at least 28 degrees. I think he tricked me a couple of times,” she said of her husband.

Michael and Leona Smedley and daughter, Makayla, 6, were also beating “cabin fever” in the sunshine at Miller Park Zoo on Saturday.

“Can’t get in the garden yet,” he said of their choice of activities.

Getting back into the garden was on the minds of about 325 people attending the Home, Lawn and Garden Day at Central Catholic High School.

More than half the workshops and seminars were taught by Master Gardeners, said Lyn Ash of the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County, who chaired the event.

Participants were welcomed by vendors displaying orchids and garden accessories and providing information for the season.

“I’m ready to start gardening now,” said Phyliss Doran, a Master Gardener. Lawn and garden cleanup is the first task, she said, a thought echoed by several attendees.

Pam Alexander of Bloomington got a taste of spring at a hands-on floral workshop. She arranged brightly colored fresh flowers in a paper bag display, an idea she might use for her daughter’s upcoming bridal shower.

“I want to come here and get all psyched up (for spring),” said Alexander, who also attended the event last year.

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