BAR HARBOR, Maine — The crowd was loud and the sheets were fleet Saturday morning as hundreds of people gathered to watch what is becoming one of the more raucous annual events on Mount Desert Island.
The third annual Bed Races went off without a hitch in downtown Bar Harbor, though some wheels were wobbly and some steering was questionable. Gray skies dominated overhead, but only a few drops of rain fell before the skies cleared and spectators — many of them still clad in sleepwear they had donned for the downtown morning pajama sale — lined both sides of Cottage Street and cheered as each bed raced past.
“It was a great turnout,” said Chris Fogg, Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce executive director. “We had hundreds of people lining the streets.”
Seven teams of five people each competed in the event, which was held in its usual spot at the eastern end of Cottage Street. After a quick parade from the Village Green down Main Street to the race course, the teams lined up on Rodick Street to prepare.
With one person riding and four people pushing, each team raced against the clock as racers started in front of the Criterion Theatre, ran to the Main Street intersection, rounded a cluster of traffic cones and raced back to the starting line.
Some of the beds were made from scratch just for the race, while others actually were made for sleeping but had been fitted with wheels for the competition.
The winner this year was the team that placed second in last year’s race. The Jackson Laboratory team, using its experience and homemade bed from 2009, finished its run in approximately 30 seconds.
“I’d like to say that we trained, but we didn’t,” Jackson Lab team member Caleb Heffner said. “[Competing last year] helped a little bit.”
For their effort, the Jackson Lab team won $500 that they split five ways. A team sponsored by Union Trust Bank came in second, winning $200. There were no prizes for finishing third or lower.
A team from the Mount Desert Island Young Professionals group also competed, but failed to advance after its first run. Peter Hastings, a member of the group, said he was OK with going one-and-done. Having fun is the point, not winning the race, he said.
“That’s the idea,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to run again, to be honest with you.”
The competition for best-decorated bed also was stiff. The Jackson Lab team reprised its get-up from last year with the rider dressed in costume as a two-headed mouse and the racing bed made to look like a mouse cage, complete with an inverted water bottle. The team from the highway department had affixed a small snowplow to the front of its bed and members were wearing fluorescent orange vests. Similarly, the Fire Department team was dressed in turnout gear as racers ran their bright-red bed down the street.
The prize for best decorations, however, went to the team from the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel. To promote a New Year’s Eve Ball planned for Dec. 31, team members wore formal evening wear and hung a mirrored disco ball over the bed that shook as they raced.
Joy O’Shaughnessy of the Atlantic Oceanside team said they were the first in the three-year history of the race to include a disco ball in their bed design. That claim helped take the sting out of the fact that they had trouble steering their PVC bed and were too slow to advance to the next round of racing.
“It didn’t go so well,” O’Shaughnessy said, laughing about her team’s time of nearly one minute. “It will not deter us from trying again next year. This was fun.”