Runners Q&A: Hollis Oberlies on the Folk Fest 5K

NC Folk Fest will begin today, and the Folk Fest 5K on Sunday will add a new twist to the event.

Runners Q&A: Hollis Oberlies on the Folk Fest 5K
NC Folk Fest will begin today and continue through Sunday in downtown Greensboro. Admission is free (Lynn Donovan photo).

Brand collaborations seem all the rage these days.

Nike with Ben & Jerry's.

Crocs with Pop-Tarts.

Barbie with Xbox.

Skittles with French's Mustard.

Well, maybe they're not all the most appealing collaborations.

But putting the Triad running community together with the NC Folk Fest?

That's a match made in Greensboro.

Hollis Oberlies, in 2018, received the Race Series' Will Caviness Award, which goes to a runner who inspires and encourages others in the community, after she started the cross country program at Kiser Middle School.

Hollis Oberlies started the program and coaches cross country at Kiser Middle School.

And in 2023, Oberlies has teamed with Amy Grossmann, the president and CEO of the Folk Festival, and other city and running community leaders, including the High Point Athletic Club's Brandon Hudgins, to bring Sunday's Folk Fest 5K in Greensboro to fruition. The run, beginning at 10 a.m. and with more than 215 runners and walkers signed up, will lead off the Folk Festival's final day.

"The Folk Fest 5K is a huge joint effort," Oberlies says. "It's for our running community, which is made up of so many unique personalities, created to support and to get to know each other and have fun running and walking together. We're just creating a space to celebrate all of us, during a unique, free-to-the-public weekend event, also based around community, through music and dance. What's not to love about that?!

"Firsts are hard, laying foundation is hard work, but creating with the right team of people makes it fun."

The festival in downtown Greensboro will bring together more than 300 artists and thousands of spectators.

Oberlies, whose husband, Nick, children Jessica and Declan and father, Jef Morgan, are all runners, is the subject of today's Runners Q&A.

RS: Why was this event important for you to help get started?

Oberlies: "It seemed an ideal space to set up a race that then gave back to Folk Festival. Our running community could really use something that brought us together and brought people downtown. And creating an event that was something that would be a fundraiser but also a community run, not necessarily competition, would bring people together.

"Timing companies are part of that. Teenagers will be on the course steering and cheering as course monitors. Fleet Feet is involved and helping at a water station. It's a lot of the community run clubs and different leaders in that community that are part of this. It's just a nice way to get everybody together to celebrate what we have here in the Triad."

When: Today-Sunday.
Where: Downtown Greensboro.
Admission: Free.
Schedule: Today – First performance begins at 5 p.m., final performance begins at 9:30 p.m.. Saturday – First performance begins at 12:30 p.m., final performance begins at 9:30 p.m. Sunday – First performance, by Nani Vazana, at the end of the Folk Fest 5K, begins at 11 a.m.; final performance begins at 5:30 p.m.

When: 10 a.m. Sunday.
Where: Start-finish line is on the 200 block of East Market Street near the Cone Health CityStage.
Entry fee: $40; registration remains open.
Packet pickup: Friday – 4-6 p.m., Fleet Feet Sports, 3731 Lawndale Dr., Greensboro. Saturday – 1-4 p.m., Cone Health CityStage area. Sunday – 8:30-9:45 a.m., Cone Health CityStage area.
Information: Click here.

RS: It's a new event, but what will you expect this experience to be like Sunday morning?

Oberlies: "We're hoping to introduce the Folk Festival to some people that ordinarily may not have gotten downtown for it over the last few years. It may bring new folks to the festival itself. There will be packet pickup on Saturday at the festival, and hopefully people will take advantage of picking up their packet and see some of the events on stages around downtown while they do that.

"There will also be music, of course, starting up a little bit early on Sunday, right at our finish line, which is kind of special for just our event. And then it segues straight into the Folk Festival lineup for the final day of the event.

"And it's going to be a time when we've got Cone Sports Medicine downtown and the ability to talk to doctors about things. To have a little bit of fun with music, and all the food vendors are opening a little bit early down near Cone Health CityStage.

"About 10:50, we'll start pulling some raffle winners. There are some great training packages or 5K race entries or Greensboro Half Marathon race entries. There's a whole host of things that people can choose to put a raffle ticket into. Everybody gets one raffle ticket, but they can buy more. That will be an additional fundraiser for the Folk Fest.

"We're looking forward to some fun. It's not a timed event. It's just enjoying running with community members who love to do what we do. And I think the walkers will be equally excited to just be part of the fun."

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RS: You like to get stuff started, and I mean that in a good way. Why is that?

Oberlies: "I like to create. I've always enjoyed creating something new and maybe meaningful for the community.

"It's been really nice to work with the city. It was a joint effort of two timing companies, Trivium Racing and Junction 311 Endurance Sports, that are both local and kind of serve different niches in the running community. Both have loaned us resources. Same thing working with Fleet Feet; John Dewey has been wonderful to support us in this first round. We're grateful to all of the people who are partners.

"We'll look forward to continuing to grow it and have people want to make sure that they sign up and are part of things for years to come."

NC Folk Fest will bring together more than 300 artists and thousands of spectators on downtown streets in Greensboro (Lynn Donovan photo).