On Saturday July 13, several ELGA employees gathered in Fenton for the Bastille Day race. Some walked, some ran, and a brave few even ran 15K instead of the standard 5K. Many of our friends and family who saw us sacrificing a Saturday morning for a French holiday wondered why? To understand this, we have to go into a little history lesson, but I promise to keep that brief!

In 1789, Revolution was raging in France. In a nutshell, there was economic turmoil that was exacerbated by the nobility. The Bastille was an armory, fortress, and political prison in one, and was, in short, representative of the French nobility. On July 14, 1789, the commoners stormed and seized the Bastille, leading to a turning point in the French Revolution. This allowed France to become a free country and limiting the authority of the French monarchy. In the years that followed, July 14th became Bastille Day, a celebration of the sense of national unity that storming the Bastille brought about. Soon Bastille Day celebrations became fairly successful in New Orleans, an area steeped in French heritage. With the help of the restaurant industry, it gained traction and began happening around the country.

There doesn’t seem to be any real reason why Bastille Day became popular in the United States when, for example, Canada Day hasn’t, the cards just happened to fall this way. But I can tell you why Bastille Day races are common. Early Bastille Day celebrations largely occurred in French restaurants and commonly included waiters racing, running while carrying trays of glasses. Paired with the nod to the speed and urgency of storming the Bastille, racing is really the only sensible way to honor this momentous anniversary.

From France to Fenton

Now that we have the history out of the way, let’s get on with the specifics of this race! The Fenton Bastille Day Race benefits the Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, which provides affordable housing and home repairs to local residents. It also undertakes beautification and maintenance tasks to increase property values and improve economic quality of life. I love the juxtaposition of honoring a day of independence and rebuilding by honoring an organization that helps people achieve independence by rebuilding! This event had an amazing turn out. For me, the sheer volume of people was a bit overwhelming and parking was a little difficult.

I could immediately tell by the smiles and laughter all around me that my mild anxiety was uncommon and most of the attendants were having a great time. The sense of community around me was palpable, and the size of the group made the town seem to buzz with excitement. One of our own ELGA teammates has been recovering from an injury and was unable to keep the pace she would have liked, so several of our colleagues slowed their own pace to stick with her and keep her company. Since we’re talking about a timed event, that is truly indicative of the sense of togetherness this event inspired! This is just further evidence of what a great family atmosphere is fostered by ELGA and the Wellness Team. The people are truly what makes ELGA the best place to work, bank, borrow, and invest!

Author: Jenni Zintel

Burton Branch Teller

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