There are a number of celebrity-studded charity affairs each year. One such notable annual event in Griffith Park is open to the public and is free of charge: the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, held each April since 1982.
For years, the race and festival was hosted by Mr. Stewart himself, star of such classics as "It's a Wonderful Life," "Harvey," "The Philadelphia Story," "Rear Window" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
Alas, for the last few years before his recent death, Jimmy was ill and unable to attend, but actor Robert Wagner volunteered to host the marathon in his absence, and has done an outstanding job - often joined by his "Hart to Hart" co-star Stephanie Powers. He continued that role after that Mr. Stewart left us.
There's a fun, picnic atmosphere at the park, and there are celebrity runners.
The 26th annual Jimmy Stewart Marathon took place on Sunday, April 23, 2006. The event began early; opening ceremonies kicked off at 7:45 AM, and the race began at 8 AM sharp; the celebrity relay race was at 10:30 AM. The hosts were Robert Wagner and Isaiah Washington (of "Grey's Anatomy").
However, due to "major redevelopment projects", Griffith Park can not accommodate the event this year. So, in its place, the Saint Johnís Santa Monica 5000 (including "the Jimmy Stewart Team Challenge"), will take place on Sunday, October 21, 2007, with a seaside race course in Santa Monica, followed by a post-event party the Santa Monica Pier. For more info on this Santa Monica event, go to www.santamonica5000.com, or phone (310) 829-8968.
In 2005, the Marathon celebs included Robert Wagner, Faith Ford ("Hope & Faith", "Murphy Brown"), Ted McGinley ("Married with Children", "Happy Days", "Hope & Faith"), Jamie Kennedy, and Hollywood's Johnny Grant.
In 2004, the co-hosts were Robert Wagner and Chris O'Donnell ("Batman & Robin").
Participants the 2003 event included George Lopez ("The George Lopez Show"), Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner, Robin Leach ("Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous", "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here"), John O'Hurley ('J. Peterman ' on "Seinfeld"), Kate Linder ('Esther Valentine ' in "The Young and the Restless"), Eric Lutes ('Del' in "Caroline in the City"), Andy Lauer ('Charlie ' in "Caroline in the City"), Danso Gordon ('Kenny 'Silk' Hayes' on "Hang Time"), Natalie Raitano ('Nikki' on "VIP"), John Lehr ("I'm a Celebrity..."), Jennifer Lopez's ex-hubby, Cris Judd ("I'm a Celebrity..."), Mark DeCarlo ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Jose Solano ('Manny Gutierrez ' on "Baywatch").
Celebrity runners in 2002 included Walter Koenig ('Chekov' of "Star Trek"), Tracy Scoggins ('Elizabeth Lochley' on "Babylon 5"), Andy Lauer ('Charlie' in "Caroline in the City"), Bryan Cranston ('Hal' of "Malcolm in the Middle"), Alex Donnelly ('Diane Jenkins-Newman' on "Young and the Restless") and Kyle Lowder ('Brady' of "Days of Our Lives"). The host, once again, was Robert Wagner and his daughter Katie.
In 2000, Robert Wagner's co-host for the event was Tom Selleck ("Magnum P.I."), and celebrity runners included many of the above, plus:
recent years, participants have included Anne Archer
("Fatal Attraction"), model Rachel Hunter
(wife of Rod Stewart), Joey Lawrence
("Blossom"), Kellie Martin
("Life Goes On" & "Christy"), Gabrielle Carteris
(Andrea on "Beverly Hills 90210"), Joan Van Ark
Kristin Davis ("Melrose
Place"), Marliece Andrada
("Baywatch") and Justine Bateman
(Mallory on "Family Ties").
In addition to the stars, there are costumed characters for the kids (such as Mickey Mouse and the Power Rangers), Universal's celebrity impersonators (such as 'Lucille Ball' and 'Beetlejuice'), and members of the American Gladiators.
Over the years, celebrity supporters of the race have included Brad Pitt, Bob Hope, Sharon Stone, Dennis Franz, Carol Burnett, Phyllis Diller, Charlton Heston, Ringo Starr, Bill Pullman, Rodney Dangerfield, Betty White, Tony Curtis, Maureen O'Hara, Wolfgang Puck, Joe Pesci, Beau Bridges and many others.
The main race is a relay marathon, which attracts over 5,000 runners. Teams of five share the marathon distance, each member running 5.2 miles before passing the baton. The teams are sponsored by groups such as entertainment, law enforcement, local news shows, firefighters, restaurants, etc. The restaurant division includes such Hollywood legends as Spago, Planet Hollywood and Schatzi on Main. Other relay teams included one from Walt Disney Imagineering, another one composed of Playboy Playmates, and another made up of Raiderettes cheerleaders.
After the main race gets underway, there's also a celebrity 5-mile relay race, a costume race, children's races, a Baby Dash, live entertainment, jugglers, clowns, musicians,a petting zoo and booths offering souvenirs and refreshments throughout the day - all on a beautiful, broad green lawn. Over 30,000 spectators turn out.
Proceeds from the race go toward the Child Study Center at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, and it raises over a half million dollars each year. Although entrants pay a fee to run in the race, the event itself is free to spectators and star watchers.
(On May 20, 1998, on what would have been Jimmy's 90th birthday, a permanent tribute to Jimmy Stewart, was unveiled at Griffith Park. It consists of an American flag on a 25-foot pole, along with a plaque remembering Jimmy as "A great American whose humanity touched us all through his work as one of the favorite actors of our time.")
For more information about the event, contact Rosa Hernandez or Melanie Bauleke at St. John's Hospital (1328 22nd St. Santa Monica) at (310) 829-8968 (or email email@example.com).
Getting there: Events are staged near the merry-go-round in Griffith Park. Take the Golden State (5) Freeway north to Zoo Drive. Parking is available in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Zoo.
more information, you can access the Marathon's official website at: http://www.stjohns.org/gift/events/jimmy_stewart/default.htm.]
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