Burnsy and the Palace Saloon

David Yon, April 11, 2016

Mike Burns is not the kind of guy to do things halfway. And while he certainly doesn’t mind breaking up a boring conversation with a round of humor, he is fast to deflect any special credit for a job well done. But one of the first things I noticed about him was his meticulous attention to detail. When he attacks a project – watch out.

Saturday is the Palace Saloon 5K race, one of the most fun races of the year and one of the fastest 5K’s in town. It is one of, if not, if not the oldest continuing races in town with the first edition being November 15, 1975. While there have been a few modifications here and there, the course has run down Jackson Bluff Road almost every year with a finish at or near the Palace Saloon. Once runners cross the finish line they are treated to a party, Palace Saloon style, which most often includes music from Bill McGuire. 

Did I mention the Palace Saloon 5K was a fast race? In its second year, three people crossed the finish line in under 15 minutes with George West winning in 14:37. In 5th place, a skinny 16 year old Herb Wills just missed that mark with a 15:05. The note at the top of my results said the course circled Messer Field twice that year. George West would go on to win the Palace Saloon 5K at least 4 times, with at least 3 of them under 15 minutes. I have to say at least 4 times because I have been unable to find the winner for 1982, a year that George could have won. In addition, I have George listed as the winner in 1977, but there is no time for him. There have been a total of 8 winning times below 15:00 minutes over the years with Rick Miller, Paul Waldron, David Keen and Robin Roberts joining the elite club.

Last year at this time I wrote a column about the Palace and the good impact Michael Burns has had on the race. He has continued as an innovative and tireless director. His work load with the club has continued to grow and he is now the Vice President and rivals the Bill Lots and the Peg Griffins in the club for most volunteer hours. But perhaps his most impressive efforts are those designed to build bridges. As we all go to our corners and create a more polarized world, Mr. Burns is always moving headlong in the opposite direction convinced he can either climb over the walls or knock them down.

He has, with GWTC’s board’s approval, dedicated half of the net proceeds from the Palace race to the South City Multi Sports Club. The South City Multi Sports Club is an outreach effort to help kids, primarily from the south side of town to learn to run, swim and bike. It is running on a shoe string budget and so far there are 12 kids committed for this year’s events. The club, based on current funding, could accept as many as 15. It is a true labor of love on Mike’s part (and many others of course) and a great reason to support this event. 

The course really is fast. There is a matter of the hill that starts around 2 and ¼ and climbs a half a mile or so. But if you roll over that hill at the top there is a quarter mile downhill and then a flat finish. And then, of course, a grand time to mix and mingle while enjoying the post-race goodies. And if he catches you with a big smile on your face, Mr. Burnsy will be quite happy himself.