BRISTOL — The reigning champions’ five-year winning streak was snapped last Friday at the 36th annual running of the Great Bristol Outhouse Race.
The Village Creeme Stand team was victorious, breaking the Snap’s Restaurant team’s supremacy in Bristol’s unique and beloved Independence Day competition.
The race is arguably the strangest athletic event in the county — a dozen teams of two pushers and one rider race decorated outhouse frames on creaky, rolling casters down West Street in Bristol. Announcer Shawn Oxford of Bristol commentated on Friday’s race from a podium on the green.
“This gets me out of running,” Oxford said jokingly of his job, which included keeping audience members and racers apprised of the race lineup and raffle ticket sales.
The event enjoyed warm and breezy weather under gray skies, with hundreds of spectators lining the streets and betting on the winners. Hannah Corbett of Massachusetts was among the crowd.
“I’ve been coming here for four years,” said Hannah, who is four years old. Her grandparents live in Lincoln and she visits them annually with her mother for the celebration. This year, Hannah said, she was rooting for the Creeme Stand. Her mother reported that Hannah had been talking about it for days.
Hannah’s wish came true in the final round, when the Creeme Stand outhouse, decorated with red, white and blue streamers, broke the tape at the finish line near the traffic light in front of Holley Hall.
The final round was preceded by four qualifying races, each of which featured three teams vying for a position in the championship event.
The first heat featured Snap’s, Starksboro School House Maple and the Creeme Stand. The famous and formidable Berry cousins who have pushed the Snap’s outhouse to victory for years were not racing this year, and the Creeme Stand beat its competitors in the sprint to the finish with rider Bailey Sherwin, 16, of Monkton, holding on for dear life inside. The Creeme Stand clocked in at 13 miles per hour when it zipped past the speed clock stationed on the side of the racecourse.
“It’s a little scary because if they let you go you’re gonna die,” said Sherwin after the team’s victory in the first heat, “but I just really want to win.”
The second qualifying heat featured Bristol Financial Services, the Paradee Family and the Paradee Cousins. The Paradee Family, with pushers Tucker Paradee and Connor Smith and rider Mac Smith, flew down the track to victory.
In the third heat, the Wells Mountain Foundation outhouse plowed down the road to beat the Vermont Workers and Young Life and secure a spot in the final. The victorious outhouse was pushed by Emily Eskay and David Eskay, and contained rider Madison Vitz.
In the fourth and final qualifying heat, Camp Kookamunga beat Red Clover Family Dentistry and Bristol Suites. Camp Kookamunga had a large fan base, including a couple dozen campers and several counselors clad in patriotic outfits and tie-dye shirts. Their outhouse was pushed by four-year veteran outhouse-pusher Jake Miller, 21, of Middlebury, and first timer Steel White, 20, of Weybridge.
“We’re itching for the title,” said Samantha Funk, director of the Middlebury day camp. “We’ve come in second twice before … so we’re pretty hopeful.”
In the moments before the final race, contestants toed the starting line, exchanging good spirited jests, stretching, and making sure that their moving outhouses were shipshape and ready to roll.
“I just drank a Red Bull, so I’m ready to go,” said Connor Smith, who was pushing the Paradee Family float.
As their outhouse team prepared for the final, deciding race, Kookamunga campers heartily cheered from the curb, “I believe that we will win.”
Riding in the Kookamunga outhouse was 13-year-old Ian Fenster, who reported that he was “excited — a little bit.”
The race began, and all four outhouses were hot off the line. The Creeme Stand and Camp Kookamunga took the lead, neck and neck, with the Paradee Family in third place and Wells Mountain Foundation trailing at the end of the pack.
The crowd cheered and strained to see the winner as the Creeme Stand outhouse broke the tape, a mere moment before Camp Kookamunga finished.
Sawyer Kamman, 18, of Lincoln helped to push the Creeme Stand’s winning outhouse and attributed his success to a somewhat superstitious factor: his socks.
“The key to winning is these prom socks,” said Kamman, pointing to his snazzy red, white and blue argyle knee socks, which he had worn to prom a few weeks before. His fellow outhouse-pusher, Whit Lower, had donned similar patriotic socks. Bailey Sherwin, riding inside, was sockless.
Regarding their second-place finish, Kookamunga campers and counselors expressed minor disappointment, but strong pride.
“Because we raced in the fourth heat, we didn’t have long to recover,” explained camp counselor and spectator Kess Moulton, 15, of Middlebury. “I’m very proud of the runners and next year we’re definitely going to do it.”
THE VILLAGE CREEME Stand edges out the trio from Camp Kookamunga at the tape in front of Holley Hall for the championship in the annual Great Bristol Outhouse Race last Friday morning. / Independent photo/Trent Campbell