Family-oriented Thanksgiving tradition returns


TALKING TURKEY—Micah Fante, 7, of Thousand Oaks participates in the kids race during the 2017 Turkey Day Dash. The event had been canceled due to the pandemic but will be back this year. Acorn file photo

TALKING TURKEY—Micah Fante, 7, of Thousand Oaks participates in the kids race during the 2017 Turkey Day Dash. The event had been canceled due to the pandemic but will be back this year. Acorn file photo

When COVID reared its ugly head, it put a pause on just about everything, including one of the Conejo Valley’s most popular running events.

For 15 years, the YMCA-led Turkey Day Dash was among the preeminent Thanksgiving traditions in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, regularly attracting 3,000-plus attendees to run the streets of Thousand Oaks on the morning before the big meal.

That tradition came to a halt in 2020 when the spread of the coronavirus led the Y to cancel the event.

When the dash did not return in 2021 or 2022, a group of community members, led by Five07 Coffee Bar owners Sean and Amber Rendineo, approached the YMCA about forging a partnership that would allow the tradition to resume.

“I never thought I’d be one of those people who wakes up early on their rare day off from work to run 3 miles, but the dash ended up being something that Sean and I found great joy in,” Amber Rendineo said. “It’s a beautiful opportunity for us all to do something active with our neighbors on a day that centers around gratitude.”

Southeast Ventura County YMCA president and CEO Ronnie Stone welcomed the effort, providing Five07 with a road map to repeat the dash’s past success and offering his team to help.

“Since the pandemic, the Y has had to significantly reduce our workforce. It is great that we are able to partner with Five07 to bring back this popular event. . . .” Stone said. “The Turkey Day Dash will always be a wonderful Y event for all our communities to enjoy.”

Under the new arrangement, Five07 will serve as host with support from three groups that will share the event’s profits: the YMCA, Kiwanis Club of Thousand Oaks and Conejo Valley Boy Scouts.

Incoming Kiwanis Club President Paul Lopez said his organization is thrilled to be part of the dash’s comeback.

Lopez and his family are longtime race participants.

“The Kiwanis Club of Thousand Oaks is always looking for an opportunity to make an impact on the children and families in our community,” Lopez said. “Being involved in bringing back the Turkey Day Dash and working in partnership with Five07 is such a thrill. We share the goals of providing a brighter tomorrow for the city of Thousand Oaks.”

New this year will be the Zack Zernik Mile, an untimed run/walk that will begin at 8 a.m. on race day before the main event.

It is named for Zachary Zernik, a Conejo Valley native and lifelong “Dasher” who died in January at the age of 22. Zack, a graduate of Thousand Oaks High School, was climbing near Mount Boney outside Newbury Park when he lost his footing and fell.

Zack’s parents, Fred and Elizabeth, felt the dash was the right venue to honor their son because the event has meant so much to their family over the years.

“We have great family memories of the Conejo Valley Turkey Day Dash, going back to the very first one at Dos Vientos,” Elizabeth Zernik said.

Each year, Zack would collect a different dash T-shirt that he would wear around town and to sports practices.

“We have these and many other happy memories of ‘Fitness before the Feast,’ including running and cheering on grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends, so we thought helping bring back the dash to the Conejo Valley was a way to honor Zack’s adventurous spirit and pay tribute to the community that he had the opportunity to grow up in,” the Zerniks said in a statement.

The 2023 Five07 Turkey Day Dash will start at 7 a.m. Thurs., Nov. 23 at Cal Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks. To register, go to www.five07turkeydaydash.org. Early sign-up and family discounts are available.

For information on becoming a sponsor, email race organizer Kyle Jorrey at dash@thefive07.com or call (805) 244-1731.