MERIDEN — Nearly 200 runners were surrounded by rows of vibrant daffodils at Hubbard Park in Meriden on Sunday for the Daffodil Dash.
A road race in the park is held annually on the weekend before the Daffodil Festival, which is Saturday and Sunday.
It’s been two years since the run and festival were last held because of safety regulations put in place for the pandemic.
Along with its return came a new name — the “Daffodil Dash” — as well as a new collaboration between the Meriden Running Club and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department .
“We wanted to use this as an opportunity for us to connect and put on a bigger race for the community,” said Derek Destefano, founder of the Meriden Running Club. “We have a great show today, a great turnout.”
The event featured a Kids Fun Run, in which 33 children participated. The 5K run drew 153 participants.
Nicole Johnson, her husband Neil and their two children participated, including 5-year-old Naaman, who is going through a relapse with leukemia.
“We’re pretty excited because he’s running today,” said Nicole Johnson. “That’s the real reason why we wanted them [the family] to run.”
The family has a donation page dubbed Team Naaman, where they regularly post updates and information about his struggle.
Reynaldo Torres, 20, a Maloney High School graduate and Central Connecticut State University student was nursing an injury. Racing in the Daffodil Dash is part of his recovery process, but the locality drew him in as well, he said.
“I ran here [Hubbard] for my whole high school career so I’d be mad if I didn’t run it,” said Torres. “I’m just grateful to be here, you never know, you could never run again, so I’m happy to be back.”
Torres placed third overall and second in the men’s 20-29 age group, with a time of 17:11.
Elizabeth Fengler, 26, of Wallingford was the first woman to finish, with a time of 19:05.
Mario Vazquez, 43, of New Britain, clocked in at 16:20, earning him first place overall.
There were also amusement rides and other activities in the park over the weekend.
“Everybody gets to come in and they get to see all the tents and the rides set up and see that the whole park is in preparation for the Daffodil Festival,” said Kathy Matula, recreation coordinator for the City of Meriden.
With the tired legs, good vibes and buzz around the festival the only unknown is if the daffodils will stick around long enough for more to enjoy.
“Mother nature is in charge of the daffodils,” Matula said. “You can never predict if the daffodils will still be here at the Daffodil Festival and this weekend the daffodils are peaking.”
Daniel Passapera is a Quinnipiac University journalism student and a photographer for the university’s marketing and communications department. Instagram: Danpass19