Chile Pepper Festival donates $44,500 to local cross country programs

Fayetteville High School cross country coach Michelle Fyfe accepts a check Wednesday for $5,500 from the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival.

Organizers of the annual Chile Pepper Festival kicked off this year’s festivities by handing out a bunch of money to local cross country programs.

The festival board divided $44,500 in proceeds from last year’s event, donating $5,500 each to the cross country programs of Fayetteville, Springdale, Har-Ber, Siloam Springs, Rogers, Heritage, and Bentonville at a news conference held Wednesday at 324 Ballroom on Dickson Street. Organizers also expanded their giving to some of the smaller schools in the region, as Prairie Grove, Gentry, Elkins, Haas Hall Academy, West Fork, and Greenland high schools also received $1,000.

The 2014 festival begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 at Agri Park, off Highway 112 in Fayetteville. The event features 5,000 runners from 80 colleges, including both the UA men’s and women’s cross country teams, and 120 high schools who’ll compete across 10 races.

The event also includes an open 10k and 5k fun run, as well as a new 1-Mile Pepper Dash this year.

The annual festival began in 1988 when locals Joe Fennel, Randy Rhine and former FHS coach Kelly O’Meara were out running and O’Meara mentioned that his program budget was only $100. That discussion led to Fennel and Rhine forming the Chile Pepper Running Club, which became the Chile Pepper Run before evolving into a premier cross country festival, featuring high school, collegiate, and amateur runners from all over the nation.

Since then, the event has raised more than $314,000 for Northwest Arkansas cross country programs.

The full schedule of races and events for this year’s festival is below. For more information, visit

Chile Pepper Festival Schedule of Events

Friday, October 3rd, 2014
5:30 p.m. – Packet Pick Up Onsite
7 p.m. – Tom Lewis 1 Mile Friday Night Pepper Dash

Saturday, October 4th, 2014
7:30 a.m.- Chile Pepper Open 10K
9 a.m. – Chile Pepper Open 5K
9:30 a.m. – Awards – Chile Pepper Open 10K 9:05 a.m, 5K Open
9:45 a.m. – Men’s Collegiate (8K)
10:20 a.m. – Women’s Collegiate (5K)
11 a.m. – Senior High Boy’s Invitational (5K)
11:10 a.m. – Awards – Collegiate Men and Women
11:30 a.m. – Senior High Girl’s Invitational (5K)
12:15 pm. – Senior High Boy’s Open (5K)
1 p.m. – Junior High Boys (5K)
1:45 p.m. – Senior High Girl’s Open (5K)
2:30 p.m. – Junior High Girls (5K)
3:15 p.m. – Awards – Senior and Junior High School