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Enterprise Journal

A Brat Days Tradition

Aug 02, 2019 09:48AM ● By Travis Charlson


It’s 5:00 a.m. The first glints of morning light have started to peek over the tasseling cornstalks, and a quiet Stacyville still slumbers as dewdrops cling to the grass.

For the last 22 years, the May family has started their Bratwurst Days by beating the sun rise to put on the annual Brat Trot — a 4.2 mile bike/run/walk that kicks off Saturday’s festivities.

“We’re just throwing a fun, super-cool event on our favorite day,” Molly May said.

The event started as a 4-H project by Tina May when she was in high school, and the first run was held in 1998.

“One of my best buddies from Stacyville—Katie Mayer-Jeske—we we’re getting into running and making a thing of driving around to all these other small towns around us and running their races,” Tina May said.

At the time, Tina was working at Ed’s Floral in Stacyville, and the town was raising money for a new library and water tower.

“I kind of felt like, ‘what can I do to help?’,” Tina May said. “And then it was ‘why can’t we have a fun run here?’ Therese Halbach, [the owner of the floral] looked at me one day and said “Do it.” Then She handed me a notebook and said ‘There’s a city council meeting tonight, what are you going to say when you go?’.”

Ever since, the event has grown to become an integral part of the Brat Day experience. The event draws scores of participants, with all of the proceeds go back into the community. Much of the proceeds are derived from t-shirt sales.

As Tina’s younger sister, Molly’s involvement began by helping out her sister and parents, before she took over pen-and-inking the famous Brat Trot t-shirts that are sold each year before the run. Each Brat Trot, the big question on everyone’s minds is “What’s the shirt look like this year?”.

It’s safe to say Molly is in charge of the entertainment department for the Brat Trot too, donning a bratwurst suit each year and dancing along the route to cheer on the runners and walkers. It’s this same kind of support for each other that the May sisters say was such an integral part of their upbringing.

“It feels so good to give back to the place that made us who we are,” Molly May said.

The May sisters said that growing up in a small, rural town like Stacyville has also given them a certain level of grit and tenacity that has helped them go out into the world and make things happen for themselves.

“We grew up on this gravel, dirt, dead-end road,” Tina May said. “We’re the first generation [in our family] to go to college. No one ever expected much of us. And I think there’s a deep sense of freedom in that.”

Coupled with the hard-working attitude a place like Stacyville has also comes a system of support, the May sisters said.

“I think here, if you can dream it, you can do it. I truly believe that,” Tina May said. “And looking back at the Brat Trot, no one ever told me that I couldn’t do it, even as a 15 year old kid.”

And for the last 22 years, the Brat Trot has become as much a part of the celebration as the Bratwursts themselves, and the May sisters always find a way to make it back home for the event.

“No matter where I’ve lived, whether it’s the Twin Cities, San Francisco, Washington D.C.— this has been our thing,” Tina May said. “We [always] come home.”