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The Story Behind Red Dress Run

red dress run
Red Dress Run on Bourbon Street (Photo: Paul Broussard)

French Quarter streets will literally run red on August 11 for the annual Red Dress Run. Organized by the New Orleans Hash House Harriers, the local Red Dress Run is in its 24th year. At its core, the Red Dress Run offers an opportunity for both hashers (as members of the organization call themselves) and members of the public to don a red dress, drink beer, run (or walk), and generally let loose.

The Backstory

The Hash House Harriers originated in Malaysia in 1938 with a few objectives in mind: to promote physical fitness among its members, to get rid of weekend hangovers, to acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer, and to persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel. This non-competitive running social club concept caught on and has since spread to communities around the world, including New Orleans.

The Red Dress Run began in San Diego in 1987 by happenstance with a sassy lady wearing red. “The Lady In Red,” visiting a friend who happened to be part of the local Hash House Harriers, found herself at a hash (or run) meeting members of her friend’s running group. She wasn’t exactly dressed for the part, but after receiving some flack from a local hasher, she hit the pavement wearing her red dress and heels. The group organized the inaugural Red Dress Run the next year, after which the phenomenon spread to other hashers around the globe.

Photo: Red Dress Run (photo by Cheryl Gerber)

“A New Orleans Drinking Club with a Running Problem”

The New Orleans Hash House Harriers organized in 1988 with the motto “A New Orleans Drinking Club with a Running Problem.” This assorted bunch of people meet up weekly and for special occasions to drink beer, run, and generally engage in tomfoolery.

Even if some locals don’t recognize their name, they are likely familiar with the Red Dress Run. Every year, in the August heat, the French Quarter bulges with sweaty men and women in red dresses, beers in hand. Though practically speaking, anyone can slip into a red dress and prance around the French Quarter guzzling beer, the true purpose of the Red Dress Run is charitable. Registrations for the run raise money for small local charities (last year’s recipients include Geeks Empowering Extraordinary Kids, Second Harvest Food Bank, SpayMart, Inc., and many, many more). Over the years, the organization has donated more than one million dollars to local non-profits. Registration is open through August 7 for $65 and includes lunch, drinks, and music. 100% of proceeds goes to the charities.

Grab your sneakers and your favorite scarlet colored dress or tutu and hit the Quarter for a fun run like no other. (Photo Credit: Cheryl Gerber)

The Run

The Red Dress Run makes for excellent people-watching, whether or not you are participating. Unsuspecting folks may be taken aback as swarms of people in red dresses of all styles, paired with running shoes, converge on the French Quarter. From the outside, it may seem a funny sight, but from the inside it is more of a lifestyle. Luckily, you don’t have to be a hasher to participate in the full Red Dress Run experience.

The Red Dress Run is a full day event on Saturday, August 11 that begins at Crescent Park, a linear riverfront park extending from the edge of the French Quarter and running through the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods. Crescent Park opens at 9:00 a.m. with a DJ playing until the run starts at 11:00 a.m. when runners swarm the French Quarter. Following the run, lunch is served at noon back at Crescent Park for those registered and will include fish tacos, red beans and rice, jambalaya, hot dogs, sausage, poboys, pizza, and more. Beer, wine, and snowballs will be flowing throughout the day. Local bands Dash Rip Rock and Remedy play throughout the afternoon prior to the DJ closing out the event around 5:00 p.m. The event is ages 21 and up. At the end of the day, everyone is little bit sweaty, a little bit tipsy, and can go to sleep knowing they have supported a worthy cause.

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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