SOUTH BEND -- Financially, this is a big weekend for downtown South Bend.
In fact, with 10,000 people expected both Friday and Saturday for the 29th annual Sunburst Races and other events, such as Friday night's Jerry Seinfeld appearance at the Morris Performing Arts Center, it's also expected to be one of the biggest weekends of the year.
The Sunburst, which features a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon Saturday morning, plus a Family Walk through downtown Friday night, is expected to bring in about $750,000 for the weekend for the area, Molly Sullivan, race director said.
"It's really grown quite a bit," said Sullivan, who is expecting about 8,500 runners and walkers this year.
In 2008, it had about 7,300 entries.
Sullivan said this year's numbers are down from last year's 9,200 and 2010's 9,500 because originally it was announced the race would not finish inside Notre Dame Stadium because of construction. It now will finish there. That earlier announcement likely cut down the marathon and half marathon crowd, Sullivan said.
"It's a great event," Sullivan said. "Nationally, the stadium is quite a draw."
The event will attract runners and walkers from a total of 40 states and several foreign countries, she noted, including a large contingent from Ontario, Canada.
Financially, the weekend ranks far behind Notre Dame football weekends, which are estimated to bring $10 million to the area, and even the most recent Notre Dame/Saint Mary's College graduation weekend, which brings in several million dollars, said Rob DeCleene, executive director of the South Bend/Mishawaka Convention and Visitor's Bureau. But it's still significant, he added.
"It's got a great reputation as a race," DeCleene said. "It's well established. The appeal of finishing on the 50-yard line of Notre Dame Stadium is huge.
"It's a nice annual event. It's a nice complement to Notre Dame's alumni reunion weekend (which is also taking place)."
Downtown should be abuzz Friday night, said Aaron Perri, executive director of Downtown South Bend.
Between the Sunburst registration,/pickup, the accompanying BMX demonstration near the College Football Hall of Fame, Seinfeld at the Morris, First Fridays restaurant specials and "Meet Me on the Island" at the Century Center, it's become a night a lot of people look forward to, he said.
By Friday morning, Perri knew of two of the bigger restaurants downtown that were already sold out for Friday's dinner seating.
"It's certainly up there as one of the busiest weekends of the year," he said.
"The fact that they decide to do registration down here helps the locally owned stores and restaurants," Perri said. "They could do it anywhere."
When all is said and done, financially, the Sunburst weekend won't be as big as American Youth on Parade, DeCleene said.
That twirling competition held during the third week in July at the University of Notre Dame has gone on for more than 40 years, and DeCleene said it is the largest single event outside of Notre Dame football.
But the Sunburst will provide a nice ripple effect for hotels and financially for the area, similar to large youth sports tourney weekends, he said.
"The nice thing is it fits right in with our market," DeCleene said. "It's another sporting event."
Staff writer Jim Meenan: