BAR HARBOR, Maine — Hundreds of spectators — many dressed in their finest PJs — lined the streets of downtown Bar Harbor Saturday morning to watch teams compete for the title of the fastest bed on Mount Desert Island.
Beds masquerading as everything from hospital gurneys to fire trucks and snow plows rolled through the heart of Bar Harbor’s business district to the delight of the crowd during the culminating event of the annual Early Bird Pajama Sale and Bed Races.
The pair of offbeat events is organized by the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce as a way to draw visitors to the tourist town during the off-season. Stores open at 6 a.m. and offer discounts to pajama-clad shoppers, although with temperatures in the 30s and 40s, many shoppers and spectators added coats, hats and mittens to their bedroom attire.
“We have people coming from all over just for the sale and for the bed races,” said Chris Fogg, the chamber’s executive director. “I talked to people today from New York and I talked to people from Pennsylvania. It’s a great way to let people know that we are still open for business.”
This year’s bed races drew nine teams vying for a $500 prize as they pushed their decked-out beds on wheels down Cottage Street, around a traffic cone and back to the start as the crowds cheered. The three teams with the best times in the first round then do it again.
“Exhausted,” a smiling but still-tired Harold Coombs of Trenton said of his condition several minutes after his team, “Necessary Roughness,” successfully defended their title with a time of 37 seconds flat. “We are not in shape whatsoever. Or at least I’m not in shape.”
Necessary Roughness’ ride was a simple affair, looking a bit more like a box or cart on wheels as the four human engines — Coombs, Anthony Morino, Caleb Heffner and Stephen Kneeland, all dressed in football jerseys — pushed the bed-bound rider Catrina Spruce through the course.
Others beds were more elaborate if less agile on the road as several struggled to navigate the U-turn and the midway point.
The “Bar Harbor Highway Wingnuts” attached a miniature snowplow and flood lights to their rig, while a team from Acadia Hospital wearing scrubs and white lab coats escorted a bandaged-up patient in a bed that was strung with fake IV bags containing reddish fluids. Their team was dubbed “The Defibrillators.”
The crowd favorite appeared to be a team from the Bar Harbor Fire Department pushing a simple red-and-gold rig. But the prize for the best bed went to the PJ-wearing “Side Street Rollers” team from Bar Harbor’s Side Street Cafe, with their racing four-poster emblazoned with a giant “Shop Local” message on the back.
Second place went to a team from Bangor-based food serve equipment dealer R.M. Flagg Co., whose members sported chef’s hats and aprons as they pushed a bed that appeared to be a mattress mounted on the type of metal cart often found in restaurant kitchens.
This was the first bed race for the R.M. Flagg’s “Wicked Whippers” team, comprised of Caleb Guerin, Andrew Guerin, Justin Phinney, Brett Bradford and rider Monica Alexander. But the group plans to be back next year with the benefit of experience.
They will likely have to once again compete against Necessary Roughness as they seek their third-straight title. Asked by Fogg how they will prepare in the meantime, an out-of-breath Coombs replied, “Run.”