Many years ago, a fast-talking businessman in Rancho Cordova was looking around for a way to combine his love of kayaking and promote his restaurants. With that beginning was born a race that would someday be known as the World's Oldest Triathlon and bears the name of none other than Eppie Johnson.
2013 will be a great year of special anniversaries in Rancho Cordova. The Chamber of Commerce will turn 50 and the City of Rancho Cordova will turn 10. And what began as an advertising gimmick by Rancho Cordova's own P.T. Barnum will mark its 40th year.
In case you are new in town, Eppie's Great Race runs up and down the American River Parkway - mostly in Rancho Cordova - and features a 5.82 mile run, a 12.5 mile bike race and a 6.5 paddle to the finish. Nearly everybody in Rancho Cordova knows somebody who has either participated in or volunteered at Eppie's Great Race.
It is highly likely that sooner than later Eppie's Great Race will raise its millionth dollar for Sacramento County's Therapeutic Recreation Services which provides recreational programs and opportunities to people with mental and physical disabilities.
This enormous gift prompted Sacramento County to name a facility in his honor and today the Eppie G. Johnson Therapeutic Recreation Center is a place for people with disabilities to have fun and make friends.
Eppie's Great Race is one of the great summertime activities in the Sacramento area, drawing 2,000 or more racers and even more spectators. It is also one of the biggest volunteer enterprises in the area with hundreds giving up a Saturday to don the Eppie's volunteer t-shirt and pitch in. It takes more than 100 volunteers at the finish line alone to retrieve the boats and bring them to shore as racers pop out and make a mad dash for the finish line.
A few years back, Eppie created the Eppie's Great Race Foundation, established to keep the race going after Eppie is gone. But that's hard to imagine when you see Eppie, now in his 80s, barking orders and promoting his race far and wide to anyone who will listen.
In one of many interviews, Eppie once said it means a great deal to him when people stop him on the street and thank him for the many things he does for the community.
"The race is now personal,"
Whereas Eppie says he always thought his epitaph would read "He was a pretty good restaurant guy," he now believes it will read "He was the founder of Eppie's Great Race."
Eppie, that's a long way off. But for now, on the occasion of your 40th year, we think it is a good time to stop and thank you for putting Rancho Cordova on the map.
We appreciate you bringing focus to the beautiful American River Parkway, which forms our northern border. And we look forward to July 20, when, for the 40th year in a row, the weekend warriors will return to Rancho Cordova to run, bike and paddle into the Eppie's record books.
Eppie, there is nobody quite like you, and no race quite like your's. Thanks for 40 years of memories.