Bed Races captivate hundreds of cheering bedheads in Bar Harbor

Posted Nov. 10, 2012, at 5:09 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 11, 2012, at 8:43 p.m.
Members of College of the Atlantic's &quotSlow Food, Fast Feet" bed racing team push their rig down the racetrack on Bar Harbor's Cottage Street on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.
Members of College of the Atlantic's "Slow Food, Fast Feet" bed racing team push their rig down the racetrack on Bar Harbor's Cottage Street on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Buy Photo
Members of Bangor business R.M. Flagg Restaurant Equipment pose with their trophy (and Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Fogg) after winning the Fifth Annual Bed Races in Bar Harbor on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.
Members of Bangor business R.M. Flagg Restaurant Equipment pose with their trophy (and Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Fogg) after winning the Fifth Annual Bed Races in Bar Harbor on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Buy Photo

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Last year’s runners up said they’d be back for the gold, and this year, they delivered.

A team of racers from R.M. Flagg Restaurant Equipment in Bangor took home first place Saturday in Bar Harbor’s fifth annual Bed Races, beating out 11 other teams. Last year, the team came in second place and vowed to return as a better, more experienced team.

“They’ve definitely won bragging rights until next year” said Chris Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the race’s announcer.

The Bed Races have become the traditional closing event of Bar Harbor’s annual Early Bird Pajama Sale. Shops open early, at 6 a.m., and offer discounts to the early rising shoppers, with extra deals for customers who show up in their PJs.

The sale lasts about three hours, and then everyone rushes to a closed-off section of Cottage Street, transformed into a track for the bedridden racers. Each team consists of four “pushers” and one rider, who must stay on the bed at all times and can’t help propel the craft. Teams must construct a themed bed or bed-shaped craft that includes a headboard, footboard and mattress or box spring twin-size or bigger. Then the race is on.

More than 500 people, most of whom looked like they had just rolled out of bed, lined the streets and cheered as each team completed a timed run to the end of the track, around a cone and back.

Andrew Guerin, one of the winning team’s pushers, said the strategy for a win was simple: “As fast as we can go, full power. That’s it.”

R.M. Flagg’s “bed” was ingeniously designed for its task. A light, stainless-steel table was set atop four large, swiveling wheels. On top, a twin-size box spring for rider Monica Alexander. It was decorated with whisks, wooden spoons, colanders and other kitchen supplies.

The team beat the runner up, Jackson Lab’s “Trapped in Bed,” by about two seconds, with a time of 35.8 seconds.

Most teams managed the task in less than a minute. But one team, College of the Atlantic’s “Slow Food, Fast Feet,” took nearly two minutes to finish. Their bed — the only actual bed in the competition — was handicapped after its old, creaking wheels were worn down to nothing, leaving the bed nearly immobile.

Despite the setback, the racers celebrated and smiled as they crossed the finished line to the crowd’s cheer.

“It was crazy,” said Rosetta Nguyen, 16, of Southwest Harbor. She said she saw sparks fly off the COA team’s wheels before the craft came to a halt. “The wheels just burned off.”

Nguyen was joined by her friend Mariah Kern, 15, of Ellsworth. Neither girl had ever been to the bed races before, but said they loved it.

“It was really cool,” Kern said. In a tinge of harmless schadenfreude, she said Team COA’s troubles were her favorite part of the event. “They went with an actual bed and thought it would work,” she said. “It didn’t.”

The Bed Races and Pajama Sale are all fun and games, Fogg said. It’s a time to be frivolous and bring the community together. But it’s also meant to boost Bar Harbor’s economy during the off-season, after the hordes of tourists have left and many of the shops have closed for the season.

“It’s a silly event, and people have a great time,” he said. “But the underlying theme is to get people to come down to Bar Harbor. We’re not closed.”

In addition to the trophy and bragging rights, R.M. Flagg’s team received $500 in gift checks to any shop or restaurant in Bar Harbor, courtesy of the Chamber. The second place Jackson Lab team won $200 of the same.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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