BRISTOL — With less than 100 feet remaining in the final heat of Bristol’s 33rd annual Great Outhouse Race, it looked like the two-time reigning champions representing Snap’s Restaurant might lose to the rookies from Camp Kookamunga. Then, from somewhere deep in the hot depths of this year’s Fourth of July festivities, cousins Chris and Kevin Berry, 23 and 20, found their legs, turned on the afterburners and jetted straight through the finish line to reclaim their title as the “World Champions” for the third consecutive year.
The brawny Berry cousins and their smaller 13-year-old rider Matt Jackman were one of 15 three-person teams to roll down Bristol’s Main Street in front of hundreds of onlookers in this year’s outhouse race. For the competition, two runners push or pull a rider down the 1,000-foot drag from Bristol’s Howden Hall to the finish line at Holley Hall, while the person in the cockpit hangs on for dear life in an outhouse-like wooden frame atop finicky casters.
This year’s contest was broken into four heats — three legs with four teams and one with three — and the winner of each stage took a shot at the championship in the final race. Team Snap’s decisively won the first heat with their austere and minimally decorated outhouse, but it was clear from the ensuing races that this year’s competition would be stiffer.
Seeing is believing
Click here to see a slideshow of action shots taken during this year's race!
Led by fearless competitor Rich Walkden — covered from head to toe in American flag memorabilia and topped off with a red, white and blue Mohawk — team Green Mountain Renewable Energy hammered home heat two after all three of their members, including second runner Erin Cassles-Brown, 16, and his sister in the rider seat Zoe Cassles-Brown, 13, ran an early morning 5-kilometer race.
“This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve been dreaming of doing this all my life,” said the 42-year-old Walkden. “When I was down at the starting line, I was locked in and wasn’t going to let anything in front of us.”
In terms of outhouse design, Walkden explained, “we watched the films of last year’s race and then we took the best and fastest designs and incorporated them into what we have here to create a lot of airflow.”
Covered in red, white and blue, team Renewable Energy’s outhouse had a curtain-like shield on the front to draw air in and through to the back, where strips of fabric attached to the rear fluttered in the wind.
Packing a punch in the third heat, team Camp Kookamunga, comprised of counselors Connor Ross, 18, Jake Miller, 19, and Natalie Dayton, 20, dragged their outhouse shimmering with streamers down the tarmac to wind up in the finals. After their first leg they kept silent, composed and ready for the championship.
Team Village Creeme Stand, consisting of Creeme Stand employees who all graduated from Mount Abraham Union High School, was looking to recover from slip-ups of past competitions.
“I was nervous to begin with because when I raced two years ago we fell over,” said rider Courtney Jipner, 18, who mentioned that she had great confidence in her runners for this year’s race.
“Last year I ran and I got tripped about 10 feet from the finish line, so it was sweet redemption,” said Harper Davis, 18, after the team won the third heat.
Since the theme for Bristol’s parade was a “A Century of Stories,” the Village Creeme Stand crew covered their outhouse in imagery from the age-old tale of the tortoise and the hare.
“I love winning,” said Davis, “but the Berrys racing for Snap’s are going to win again. They’re really good, so we’ll shoot for second.”
In the final race, not only did the Berrys look strong, but so too did Camp Kookamunga who got edged out by team Snap’s in the final few feet of the race to take second. Renewable Energy ran out of steam, ending in a close third. And team Village Creeme Stand came in fourth.
“We had some really good competition this year,” said Chris Berry after the final run.
Camp Kookamunga, however, isn’t simply settling for a loss after their first year.
“We’ll be back next year. We’ve got them close in our sights,” said Connor Ross, 18, of Camp Kookamunga.
As for team Renewable Energy, they’re already charging up for 2012.
“It was fantastic. I’m dreaming of how we’re going to do it next year,” said Walkden. “We’ve already watched the videos from different sources and the winners had certain techniques that we’re going to imitate. I think we’re going to take it next year — absolutely.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]