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Maison D'Amelio, 12, from Auburn, spins a hula hoop for three minutes on her arm at Stark Park during the Queen City Stampede on Saturday in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

A fun-filled test of ... lots of stuff at Queen City Stampede

MANCHESTER -- Santa Claus - minus his reindeer - jogged along city streets Saturday morning with only one helper in tow, surprising parents on a playground and taunting a child competing against him in a race to complete challenges in the fastest time.

"Santa said, 'Just remember who you're running against,'" said Christine Egan, a Manchester mom teamed up with her 9-year-old son, Benjamin.

Santa, aka 62-year-old Dan Greenleaf of Manchester, acknowledged the friendly jab. "Christmas is coming," said Santa, who sported a white beard, red knickers and red- and white-striped socks.

They were among about 60 two-person teams competing in the first ever Queen City Stampede, an event co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, with proceeds benefiting the Holy Cross Family Learning Center. Teams ran, jogged and walked around from point to point, stopping to snap pictures at required photo-ops and performing tasks at checkpoints before receiving a clue alerting them to their next destination.

Egan said the competition reminded her of the CBS show, "The Amazing Race," where teams travel around the world competing for a $1 million cash prize.

"I love watching them and trying to figure the clues out," she said before the opening sprint.

The race meant more than three miles on foot and several more by city bus.

From their start from Veterans Memorial Park, teams needed to get a photo with themselves by the moose sculpture outside Wall Street Tower on Canal Street before heading to Arms Park, where one person had to unroll string from a rod while a second person from a lower elevation had to clip a piece of paper, which then had to be reeled up.

From there, they had to snap a picture in front of the Jefferson Mill, a Brady Sullivan building on North Commercial Street, before heading to a second Brady Sullivan property on Elm Street.

Robby and Sarah Zeller, who moved to Manchester three years ago, found the competition led them to places they hadn't visited before.

"Just getting to know places on the route," said Mr. Zeller, 27. "It's a good way to see and know the rest of the city."

He waited along with 10 other teams along Elm Street, across from the Brady Sullivan Tower, to catch a city bus to Stark Park, where participants each had to spin a hula hoop on an arm for three minutes.

"Brady Sullivan has his name on a lot of stuff," he said. (Well, that's actually two men, real estate partners Shane Brady and Arthur Sullivan.)

Knowing the city's geography was definitely a plus.

Teams leaving the Millyard needed to figure out which street to take to reach Elm Street. Christine Egan went as far as the National Guard Armory before circling back, worried about going too far north on her way to the Brady Sullivan Tower.

While maneuvering steeply pitched West Penacook Street, the younger Egan started trailing his mother.

"Don't wait for me. I'll catch up," he said.

"I'm going to wait for you," Mom said. "We're a team."

Teams paid between a $60 and $120 entry fee depending on when they registered. Each person who finished received a medal. Other challenges included hammering nails into 2-by-4s and inserting cream into Twinkie-like treats.

Teams needed to stop at Livingston Park, creating a stir when some parents saw Santa pass by the playground.

"He was checking to see whether you were being good or bad," Matthew Gatsas told his 2-year-old son, also named Matthew.

mcousineau@unionleader.com



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