ST. ALBANS – More than 700 people showed up in the chilly rain to run, jog or walk in the sixth annual Running of the Bells Thursday night to support families in need during the holiday season.

Kicking off at 6:30, the course began and ended at Peoples Trust Company on Kingman Street, with a loop around Taylor Park and an out-and-back on North Main Street. The park was lit up with thousands of Christmas lights wrapped around the trees and fountain and covering a glowing cement truck parked out front.

The creativity of the costumes was abundant with participants dressed up as reindeer, Santa Claus, elves, the entire cast of Christmas Carol, candy canes and more.

Anyone dressed up could enter the costume contest, divided into seven categories of kids, adult female, adult male, family, couple, group and dog. Judges looked for holiday themes, creativity, and all around great costumes.

The winners for best costume were:

Youth: Santa riding dinosaur

Adult female: Stocking

Adult male: Ghost of Christmas Present

Family: Santa Deer

Couple: Reindeer

Group: Christmas Carol

Dog: Nutmeg the elf

Dressed up as elves, Santa Claus and a candy cane, Katherine Bennett and her friends and family decided to come back for a second year because it’s a “really, really fun evening,” she said. “It’s a great cause… There’s a lot of good support throughout the community.”

The Superior Technical Ceramics (STC) Igniters have participated in the holiday festivities since the beginning, six years ago. “Since it started, we’ve come every year,” Erica Hubbard, the Human Resources Manager for STC said. “We like to do activities for work; try to get out into the community as much as possible and do community service to try and get employees involved.”

Their group’s costume theme this year was Hawaiian Santa Christmas. In the past, the STC Igniters dressed up as bells and Elvis-themed Santa Clauses.

Newcomers Emiley Ledoux and Taylor Ward from Northwestern Medical Center brought their dogs, Mack and Millie, along on the run. Ledoux said they decided to come because it looked like fun and was a great event to train her dog Mack how to run alongside her.

All of the registration fees for Running of the Bells went to Operation Happiness, run by United Way of Northwest Vermont. Operation Happiness provides Franklin & Grand Isle County families in need with food baskets and toys for the holiday season. Participants could also donate items in person at the event.

Photos from the event are in the Friday and weekend editions of the Messenger. Pick them up at your local store or subscribe online.