Red Dress Run paints the town on Saturday

Photo by Curt McClain, Busting Loose -- Crowds pour down Bourbon Street during the Red Dress Run in 2010.
Photo by Curt McClain, Busting Loose -- Crowds pour down Bourbon Street during the Red Dress Run in 2010.

RED DRESS RUN

Adorn yourself in a little red number and run, walk, roll, crawl or stumble through the French Quarter on Saturday in the New Orleans Hash House Harriers’ 19th annual Red Dress Run.

Now, the largest Red Dress Run in the world, New Orleans is expecting about 6,000 participants to turn up in Louis Armstrong Park on Saturday to take part in the two-mile fun run.

Register on the day of the race at Louis Armstrong Park, from 9 a.m. for $75, cash only. This is strictly a 21-year-old and older event. Beer starts flowing at 9.30 a.m. and the run starts at 11 a.m. rain or shine. Live music, by Cowboy Mouth and Dash Rip Rock, kicks off at midday.

“For registered participants we have unlimited beer, wonderful entertainment, food by Corky’s and the run itself,” said Curt McClain, a general manager of the New Orleans Hash House Harriers (NOH3), a self-proclaimed drinking club with a running problem and hosts of the Red Dress Run.

“Peter Caddoo, a brewmaster at NOLA Brewery, got the energy behind the first run, which had about a couple of dozen people in it,” McClain said. “In the last five years or so, it’s taken on a life of its own. Before it was just a drunken party, and we used to rag about the fact that there was no socially redeeming value to it.”

In recent years, the run has grown to the point that NOH3 has been able to give away $1.5 million to more than 150 local charities. By limiting grants to a range of $500 to $5,000, McClain said NOH3 is able to do more for a wider cross section of agencies.

“So now it’s hard to claim it’s just a worthless drunken party,” McClain said.

Now a major fundraiser and event on the New Orleans calendar, the Red Dress Run and NOH3 are carrying on a tradition that goes beyond what appears to be a classic New Orleans-style party.

NOH3 is one of approximately 2,000 chapters around the world that have sprung out of a club that a group of British colonial officers and expats started in Kuala Lumpur in 1938. The Hash House Harriers, as they called themselves, would meet on Monday evenings to run off the effects of excessive drinking and partying over the weekend.

In 1987, a lady in a red dress disembarked from a plane in California and was taken straight to a men’s-only H3 run by an old high school friend. Told to sit and wait in the car, Donna Rhinehart instead ran after them determined to drink as much and run as far as the men — still in her red dress.

“Twenty five years ago, they commemorated this off-the-wall, totally crazy woman by starting the first Red Dress Run in San Diego,” McClain said. “The Lady in Red was supposed to come to New Orleans this year, but she passed away in April. Now we will definitely be drinking to her honor.”

As the event has grown over the years, NOH3 has added a Friday Lingerie Run and a Sunday Hangover Run, which 450 club registered hashers are expected to attend.

Whether it’s your second or 19th time participating in the fun run, it is said to be bad form to wear the same red dress twice.

“You will have people dressed in a tutu and bathing suit top to a formal red dress gown with gloves and pearls — it is a total fantasy and everybody gets a chance to let go and laugh at themselves and each other,” McClain said.