“Someone Else’s Star”, a song made famous by Grammy Award-winning artist Bryan White, debuted at number 60 on the Hot Country Songs chart on May 27, 1995. The track later became White’s first number one hit, with several chart-toppers still to come. But his first hit single’s initial appearance on the charts in spring of 1995 seemed to mark a significant moment in the talented young country singer’s career, which would blow up soon thereafter.
Nearly 26 years to the date later, the small but ambitious community of Nevada, Iowa is set to host a couple of stars itself. Yes, Bryan White and fellow country act Wade Hayes are coming to Nevada on May 22. How, you might ask? Well, to book stars, you have to shoot for the stars. And that’s exactly what Dane Nealson, race organizer and Board of Directors President for Runners United Nevada (RUN), did over one year ago.
“Honestly, it just takes big ideas,” Nealson explained. “I know that seems overly simplified. I knew that [White] was a runner. It was just one of those ‘A-ha!’ moments. So, I shot an e-mail to his scheduling guy.”
On the evening of May 22, local musicians Neil Hewitt, Chris Patterson, and Spencer Braly will open for the star-studded lineup of White and Hayes. White will also be participating in the afternoon race itself.
Of course, the idea that all it takes to bring household names like Bryan White and Wade Hayes to a small town community of just under 7,000 people is a big idea would be simplifying things a bit. Nealson and the entire RUN Board of Directors team have put in countless hours of work in order to make this specific race, along with the three others in the RUN series, attractive to runners all over central Iowa. Before any musical talent could be scheduled, the team needed to be confident in its entire game plan.
“There are a lot of 5Ks out there,” Nealson acknowledged. “We are really trying to appeal to runners outside of Nevada, as well. We have put a lot of work into having a professional start and finish area. And with our trail system here in Nevada, it just lends itself to having some great races. We’re trying to grow it. We’re trying to make the experience the best it can be for the runners.”
Runners United Nevada, also known as RUN, was originally launched in 2018. The founding group’s aim was to give local runners an organized line of races, while also benefitting the local community. (Runners United Nevada is legally a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.) The evolution of the team’s dream model has been impressive, given the young age of the races. As Nealson explained, though, every successful project has small beginnings.
“A few years ago, we started a runners group,” he said. “Nevada has had a couple of 5k events that have been ongoing for years. We didn’t really have an official group that was organizing these races, so it just made sense to file as a non-profit organization.”
The race series is dedicated to raising funds for various local causes. Proceeds accumulated by the RUN Country Fest & 5k event will be donated to The Nevada Foundation, one that fuels many of the town’s community projects. According to Mayor Brett Barker, the city is benefitting greatly from the foundation’s funding. “The first major project that we’re working on right now is the Nevada Fieldhouse project,” he explained. “We have been raising money for that. We have also been talking with the Historical Society about Evergreen Lane upkeep and other projects throughout the community.”
Barker noted that The Nevada Foundation came at a real time of need for locals, as other funding had slowed down. “For a long time, we had the Tope Foundation that was a major part of a lot of community projects here in Nevada,” he said. “Those funds have been exhausted. So, we have been looking for the next phase for those legacy community projects. That’s why we formed The [Nevada] Foundation…To have a place where people in the community could leave legacy gifts to support projects going on in the future.”
With Covid-19 and related shutdowns having affected so many in the local community, officials also saw an excellent opportunity for The Nevada Foundation to help those who were in need of assistance. “We raised money throughout the pandemic,” Barker commented. “Funds sitting there for folks having financial difficulties during the pandemic. And other community foundations are able to request funds from that if they exhaust the funds that they have available for those types of projects.”
Also in 2020, the inaugural RUN Nevada Race Series was organized, with the RUN Country Fest & 5k scheduled to kick things off that May. However, Covid-19 quickly changed things for event organizers everywhere, as most were forced to adjust on a dime to avoid having to completely scrap their plans. Runners United Nevada was forced to follow suit. “It was definitely a challenge for our Board and for everybody,” Nealson said. “We had this big idea that we were really excited to execute. And then, a couple weeks after announcing it, Covid hit. From that point forward, it basically became us figuring out how we could do it and how we could do it safely.”
In spite of the pandemic, the series pressed on. Adjustments were made, and supporters stayed loyal to the cause. “Rescheduling the Country race and postponing Bryan White until this year was a bummer,” Nealson stated. “But out of that came the Nevada Nice Virtual 5k, which we put on the calendar, not as a replacement, but as something for people to do during the time that we had originally planned the Country race.”
With White and Hayes no longer in the picture for 2020, fundraising expectations for the RUN Country Fest & 5k could easily have plummeted. In the end, though, Nealson was thrilled with the altered event’s support, in addition to that of the other series races. “[The Country race] raised at least a couple thousand dollars for The Nevada Foundation and their pandemic relief fund,” he noted. “And we were able to still do the other four races, with plenty of room for people to social distance. Nobody had any complaints as far as safety is concerned. A lot of organizers were either going all virtual or even pulling the plug. We were able to lead and say, ‘This is how you do a race during the pandemic.’ So, it presented some opportunities for us that we may not have had otherwise.”
With spring of 2021 finally here, the excitement is building once again for the performances of White and Hayes at the Story County Fairgrounds following the 5k. Nealson wanted to thank all of the local sponsors who have assisted in donating financial support towards booking both White and Hayes.
“We have been really, really fortunate with the business community here in Nevada and the amount of financial support they have given. Burke has been an incredible supporter of our activities. They are our presenting sponsor, but we have a lot of others as well. Van Wall was very instrumental in getting Wade Hayes added to the ticket.”Dane Nealson – President, Board of Directors (Runners United Nevada)
With the pieces in place for the May 22 event to proceed without a hitch, responsibility now lays with individuals to make wise decisions in order to ensure the safety of themselves and others at the festival. Story County is still under a mask mandate, and so the Board of Directors is asking that people respect that order.
In addition, vaccine rollout across the county continues. According to Barker, the need for more people to sign up for appointments is now becoming more and more prevalent. “We just did another clinic,” he said. “We’re getting to the point where our waiting lists are exhausted, and the folks who have been eager to get it are done. Now, the work is going to be getting the folks who haven’t done it yet to come in and get vaccinated.”
Barker, who works in the pharmaceutical field himself, estimated that a recent vaccination clinic at Gates Hall produced around 1200 inoculations. In addition, Barker stated that McFarland Clinic, Story County Medical Center, and NuCara have all been working around the clock to get “thousands” of shots into people’s arms.
Between the race and concert planning, as well as the literal “arms race” to vaccinate as many locals as possible, organizers remain hopeful for an absolute slam dunk of an event in just under three weeks.
“We have been working really, really hard to get as many people vaccinated as we can. Obviously, it has been over one year now that the community hasn’t been able to gather together for a large event. I am excited that we can offer an event like this. It is outdoors, so it is more Covid-friendly in that regard. Hopefully those that haven’t yet will get vaccinated, and we can have a really good event at the end of May.”Mayor Brett Barker – City of Nevada, Iowa
If you are interested in participating in the 5k race, visit www.RunNevada.org, and follow the instructions on the homepage. The deadline to register for the entire RUN Nevada Race Series 2021 is this Friday, May 7. Those that register for the entire series will receive 25% off all four race fees.
If you are only interested in registering to participate in the RUN Country Fest & 5k race, you may register up until May 21. The race will begin and finish at Billy Sunday Field, with participant check-in at 3:30 p.m.
Anyone who runs in the 5k will use their race bib as their ticket into the concert later that day. However, you do not have to run in the race to attend the concert. Concert-only tickets are available by visiting www.eventbrite.com. General admission tickets are $30 for those 13 years of age and older. Tickets for children ages 12 and under are $15. The concert will take place at Bob Williams Arena at the Story County Fairgrounds at approximately 6:00 p.m.
For more information on the series and the RUN Country Fest & 5k on Saturday, May 22, follow Runners United Nevada on Facebook. With Bryan White and Wade Hayes set to rock Nevada on May 22, the “stars” are aligned for an unforgettable start to the RUN Nevada Race Series 2021. “We really wanted to make this event a big splash,” Nealson said. “Nobody can remember when an artist with a number one hit came to Nevada. And now we’ve got two coming. We have been cooped up for a year. This is just a great outdoor event and opportunity.”