The brilliant idea, as brilliant ideas usually do, came to Tony Johnson and his buddies in the waning hours before closing time at the Swamp Tavern. This was 15 years ago, Johnson recalls, the night before Bloomsday, when someone suggested that they don't go home and sleep at all. What if they just stayed up, kept the party going at a house on Pettet Drive, and then woke up to "generally be obnoxious" to the Bloomsday runners cresting the top of the infamous Doomsday Hill.
They brought all the necessities: an electric guitar, an amp, a neon beer sign and a half-jug of a bottle of wine, perfect for combining with their gallon of vodka. The guitarist didn't really know how to play the guitar — just the same few licks from Deliverance — but it scarcely mattered.
And then Johnson said, someone "brought a box of donuts, that no one wanted to eat."
Maybe, the thinking went, they could use the donuts to play the role of siren, luring some of the nation's most elite runners away from their destination with the seductive song of sweet, sweet pastries. But, somehow, the elite runners managed not to succumb to the temptation of maple bars and bear claws. This, perhaps, is why they're elite runners.
But eventually, somewhere between the corporate runners and the rest of the pack, a few runners began to indulge.
"Everybody is really drenched with sweat and hunger when they get up the hill," Johnson says. Who wouldn't want a bit of Krispy Kreme in a situation like that?
And thus, a tradition was formed.
"It just ballooned from there," Johnson says. The next year, they had a rule: If you were going to show up to the party, you had to bring a dozen donuts. Soon, they had more than 1,000 donuts, of all sorts of varieties. Newbies were tasked with handing them out to runners. The event kept growing.
"We almost thought about getting a donut sponsorship," Johnson says. But they decided against it. In a way, the appeal of the great donut giveway was that it wasn't some corporate event. It was an event of the people.
"It's nice when everyone brings donuts and you have a big table full of boxes of donuts, all different kinds from all different places," Johnson says.
Donuts were free, while supplies lasted. By the time "the people with the coats wrapped around the waists" and kids on their shoulders started showing up, the boxes are usually empty. Consider that your motivation to run faster this Bloomsday.