Memorial Day tradition honors heroes before runners hit the pavement

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Cotton Row Run is a decades-old Memorial Day tradition for the Rocket City. It brings thousands to downtown Huntsville each year for the fun event, though it still paid homage to the holiday.

Official race-starter Maj. (Ret.) Bill Lynn told us, “To me, it’s significantly important to be here and support,” he said. “I’ve been doing this almost 20 years.”

It’s Lynn’s role to get the Cotton Row Run started by firing a gun.

“It’s U.S.-marked, it’s from early WWII,” Lynn said while describing the gun.

Down the street a ways, Rodney Pennywell and his son took a break from the competition to commemorate these heroes.

“It’s a way of respect but it’s also a way to see the race and all the events around it,” Avery Pennywell said.

Rodney Pennywell served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot. He said he is usually wearing a runner’s bib at the Cotton Row Run, but this year, he was on the sidelines with his son.

“Whether he goes into the military or not, he needs to understand, as all of us need to understand, that a lot of people made things possible for us,” Pennywell said. “Without their sacrifice and without their efforts, we wouldn’t have the luxuries we have.”

As for the results of the Cotton Row Run, visit