CAMDEN, Maine — This weekend, more than 2,400 contestants on more than 700 teams will climb a large hill, sleds in tow, all for 10 seconds of glory. That and maybe a trophy.
The competitors will include Return of the Sledi; We Got No Brakes, Chute; Bob Sled Dylan; and That’s What She Sled.
About 8,000 spectators will join the contestants in swarming to the Camden Snow Bowl Feb. 11-13 for the 21st annual National Toboggan Championships.
The contest involves teams of two, three or four people sitting on a wooden toboggan and dropping 70 feet down a 400-foot-long ice-covered wooden toboggan chute that spills out onto a frozen pond. The runs take about 10 seconds, and sleds have been clocked going 40 miles per hour.
“It’s basically a giant slide,” said chute master Stuart Young as he stood at the top of the chute recently. “Good racers can do it in about 8 seconds.”
Drawing thousands of people to Camden in February certainly has an effect on the town that supports 5,000 residents. In recent years, the weekend has reaped net revenues around $35,000.
“But I expect it will be more this year,” said Jeff Kuller, director of Camden Parks and Recreation.
Fees were raised a bit, and there are more sponsors and more vendors this year.
“It keeps growing,” Kuller said.
The National Toboggan Championships also have reached capacity for how many teams can fit into a weekend, Kuller said.
As for the business of sledding fun, Dan Bookham, executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce said hotels fill up each year during the toboggan event and “restaurants love it.”
“The Toboggan Nationals contributes greatly to the local economy. They are a sign of a year-round economy, which is rare on the coast of Maine,” he said.
Chute master Young said this year’s event, which is a community effort, will be “the Mardi Gras of Maine.”
Two pancake breakfasts, theater shows in town, a dance at the Knox Mill and fireworks will all happen in conjunction with the event, but closer to the downtown area.
This year Camden will ease into the Nationals on Friday, Feb. 11, with members of the public taking rides down the chute for $5 a head. That night, the town-owned ski mountain will feature a bonfire, music, food and a cash bar. Saturday will bring a chili contest, children’s events, costume contests and, of course, toboggan racing. Sunday closes with a chowder contest, more sled runs and an awards ceremony.
For a full schedule, busing information, team rosters and more, visit camdensnowbowl.com.