Innovators & Influencers — a destination marketing organization (DMO) or convention and visitors bureau (CVB) deserving of a spotlight and applause. This special edition of Innovators & Influencers features Auburn-Opelika Tourism and its small team’s big ambition to use community engagement to get a project across the finish line.

Video by Jeremy Kasik, videographer.


In 2022, the DMO hosted its very first War Eagle Run Fest (WERF), which included a half marathon, a 5K course, and a one-mile kids run. All three events crossed a finish line on the 50-yard line of the university's football stadium — which delighted participants. 

“We're a staff of seven, so pulling off a half marathon would have been the only thing we could have done and probably not terribly successful,” said Brooke Kastner, Vice President of Auburn-Opelika Tourism. “This was 100% of full community effort.” 

It might have been an all-hands-on-deck project, but it paid off. The goal was to have 1,500 people participate in the first year and the DMO saw over 2,551 runners. Fast forward to February 18, 2024, the third annual War Eagle Run Fest was a huge success — boasting 3,831 participants. 

Number of participants per year: 

  • 2022: 2,551 participants
  • 2023: 3,337 participants (31% growth)
  • 2024: 3,831 participants (15% growth)

Kastner says the team hopes it will one day evolve into a full marathon with significant brand recognition that locals and travelers could look forward to year-round.

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