The organizers of this year's Powell Festival have decided a race is the best way to get the 18th annual fest off and running.
The Liberty Trail 5K will open the festival at 7 p.m. June 26 at Adventure Park. The race will take runners and walkers on a path northeast of the city's downtown area, beginning and ending on Adventure Park Drive.
Jaymie Kottenstette, executive director of the nonprofit Historic Downtown Powell, said she sees the event as an exciting way to open the weekend celebration.
"(The organizers) decided we needed a formal kickoff to start the event," she said.
The celebration in downtown Powell tentatively has been scheduled to follow the 5K.
After the festival's organizers decided on a 5K walk and run, Kottenstette said they began looking for a charitable cause to support. A chance encounter with Iraq War veteran Cory Hixson led organizers to partner with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Hixson, a Powell resident and financial adviser with Edward Jones, said he was introducing himself around the city when he walked into Kottenstette's office. After a conversation that touched on the Powell Festival and the 5K, Hixson offered to help get the festival's organizers in touch with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Hixson had enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2001 and was deployed in Iraq from June 2004 to January 2005. In late 2004, Hixson and his unit were involved in heavy urban combat during the second battle of Fallujah, also known as Operation Phantom Fury.
Hixson served with Scout Sniper Platoon, Viper Team Six in what he said has been described as the "fiercest battle in the Iraq War."
Hixson left active duty in 2005 to attend the University of North Florida. He worked for a payroll-services company before becoming an action officer in the Army Warrior Transition Command, assisting wounded and ill soldiers in finding internships, jobs and educational opportunities.
He said that job reinforced his appreciation for the work of the Wounded Warrior Project, which also has benefited him personally.
"They helped me navigate the VA and kind of the complex and confusing processes of that behemoth," he said.
In addition to helping veterans receive their full benefits, the nonprofit provides a host of services, including career training, mentoring and physical and mental health programming.
Hixson said he thinks the Liberty Trail 5K's ties to the Wounded Warrior Project makes it unique.
"I don't know of another 5K that's dedicated to inspiring patriotism before Independence Day and supporting wounded warriors," he said.
Kottenstette said all of the proceeds after expenses from the event will go to the Wounded Warrior Project. She said she hopes the event raises between $15,000 and $20,000 for the nonprofit.
The registration fee for the event is $25 before June 12 and $35 on or after that date.
"We are estimating 1,000 runners and walkers (will attend)," Kottenstette said.
Hixson said he has reached out to other Wounded Warrior Project alumni and invited them to attend the race. He said he hopes the Liberty Trail 5K becomes an annual event.
"I'd really like to see it become a staple of the Powell Festival," he said.
Kottenstette said that's the goal.
"Obviously, I want to see it continue on and on and get bigger and bigger," she said.
For more information about the Liberty Trail 5K, visit visitpowell.org/the-liberty-trail-5k.html.