New Orleans is known for many events and festivals. Perhaps the most compelling reason for New Orleanians to gather in large numbers is the opportunity to costume. The Hash House Harriers, a self-proclaimed "drinking club with a running problem," provide such an opportunity. The organization sponsor the Annual Red Dress Run - one of those uniquely New Orleans fun events that doubles as a fundraiser.
The Red Dress Run is open to men and women alike but men find the event more attractive and fun. It is said New Orleans men are simply less terrified of appearing publicly in a dress. How else to explain why more than 10,000 runners, walkers and pub crawlers annually assemble in a hot August in New Orleans.
The run is usually between 3 and 5 miles (no one measures it exactly) and participants start assembling, registering and drinking at 9:00 a.m. The registration is not free - it costs $50 - $75 depending on how early you apply. All the funds raised go to charity. Participation is open to anyone over 21 "who has a good sense of humor and realizes that August in New Orleans is HOT!" Wearing a red dress or something else from women’s wardrobe is an absolute requirement. There is live music before and after the race which begins at 12:30 p.m.
While the Run has a known starting point (the Ernst Café), the complete route is a closely guarded secret, revealed on the day of the event. The runners follow messages in chalk and colored flour left by fellows to navigate the route. The winners are all who make the way. The successful participants are rewarded at the end of the run with beer and food.
Don't have a red dress? Don't worry. The HHH Haberdashery will be more than happy to fit you for one, and chances are they have one just your size among their fabulous selection of outlandish clothing items. But I would be more fail-safe if have you come with your own dress. The organizers even put together a red dress swap because running in the same dress two years in a row is considered bad form.
There are a few stories floating around about how red dresses appeared. Some say it started when a young lady who was invited to her first hash run showed up in a red dress — not realizing it was a running group. She ran the route anyway and launched the tradition.
While apparently there are red dress runs in many points of the world and the origins can be traced to San Diego the Red Dress Run in New Orleans on the second Saturday of August is by far the largest in the world.