Bristol Financial proves it has the penthouse of outhouses at Bristol’s fun 4th of July race

BRISTOL — One team’s command of West Street’s central crown might have decided the outcome of Tuesday’s Great Bristol Outhouse Race. 
In the championship heat of what Bristol Fourth of July celebration organizers unofficially (and not so modestly) call the World Championship Outhouse Race, the winning Bristol Financial Services team of pushers Coleman Russell and Chris Wood and rider Sophie Wolak lined up their rolling port-a-potty right next to the street’s double yellow lines.
From there, they pushed a straight and true course through the big crowd lining both sides of Bristol’s main thoroughfare, cruised under the giant American flag lofted between two cranes, and then broke the paper-towel barrier at the finish line held between volunteers wielding the towel roll and a toilet plunger.
As was the case with all great championships, hard work, dedication and practice certainly must have been behind the team’s two perfect runs on Tuesday morning, Russell was asked.
Russell’s response: Well, not exactly.
“We picked up the outhouse last night and showed up this morning,” he said.
Russell and Wood — both newly minted graduates of Mount Abraham Union High School, where they were multi-sport athletes — admitted to being motivated by their second-place finish a year ago, by about five feet in the final, which followed four preliminary heats.
But Wood said even earning a world championship outhouse race victory and avenging that loss, while plenty of fun, was not as sweet as starting for the 2016 Eagle baseball team that won the Division II Vermont title.
“But a win is a win,” Wood said. “We’ll take it.” 
While Bristol Financial cruised down the middle, the Hatch 31 team — pullers Cam Perta and Jake McDonough and rider Sara Wisell — that proved to be its main competition in the final struggled to maintain a direct course from start to finish.
Hatch 31 and Bristol Financial ran neck-and-neck down the roughly 300-yard course (According to the Bristol Fourth website, “The actual course length has never been measured”; apparently some things are best left unknown) until about 30 or 40 yards from the finish, with Hatch 31 on the south side of West Street.
   IRA WHITE YELLS out a rallying cry to his teammates pushing the Mount Abraham Union High School Varsity Football outhouse Tuesday in Bristol.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The road tilts toward the crowd there, and Perta said he and McDonough were battling their wooden rest room’s wheels as well as Bristol Financial.
“Our issue was that the course tilted to the right a little bit because of the bank, so we had Jake trying to work to control it. In the first race it was fine,” Perta said. “But in the last race it was hard for him to corral it and power it at the same time.”
As the teams headed east toward the finish line just before the downtown traffic light, Hatch 31 started veering ever closer toward the crowd. Finally the pullers had to slow to avoid injuring onlookers as the cart hit the fans right at the finish line. It appeared as if Bristol Financial might have had a slight lead, but anything could have happened.
Despite the frustration, Perta said he and McDonough plan to return.
“It was an absolute blast. It was a great time. I can’t wait until next year. Last year we didn’t win our heat, and this year we won our heat. We’re moving in the right direction for sure,” Perta said. “Next year’s our year.”
   THE CARTER AGENCY outhouse with Nate Selby, left, Emily Crowe and Emma Carter cross the paper towel finish line in second place at Bristol’s outhouse race Tuesday morning.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
It was hard to say if Hatch 31 or Carter Agency — pullers Emma Carter (a current three-sport Eagle standout and senior-to-be) and Nate Seley and rider Emily Crowe — actually finished second.
Many in the crowd were pulling for what would have been the first-ever victory by a co-ed team (one observer said it would be “appropriate in the year of Wonder Woman”) and Carter Agency had already pulled off a rare co-ed win in the morning’s first heat.
But despite weeks of training, Carter Agency had to settle for what could have been second, about 20 feet behind Bristol Financial.
Oh, wait, that’s not how preparation for the Great Bristol Outhouse Race works.
“We came down this morning and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Carter said.
In keeping with the Mount Abe athletics theme of the outhouse race, the final heat winner and participant in the championship race was Bristol Youth Sports, with Eagle track and cross-country coach Brent Crum and Eagle runner Jude Bunch doing the pulling and Crum’s daughter Emily donning the required helmet and going along for the ride.
   BRISTOL YOUTH SPORTS with rider Emma Crum and pullers Jude Bunch, left, and Brent Crum power their way to a preliminary heat victory at Tuesday’s Great Bristol Outhouse race.
Also competing on Tuesday were teams from the Lake Champlain Waldorf School (the winner for best decorated outhouse), In Stitches (a veteran team upset by Carter Agency in the first heat), two from Goodpoint Recycling (one, with an H.M.S. Poop Deck that contended for best decorated), Norland/Hines, Bristol Village Creeme Stand, the Paradee family, and the Mount Abe football varsity (a contender that, like Hatch 31, struggled with the far-south lane).
Each of those teams paid an entry fee that helped support the Bristol Fourth of July committee’s events, notably Monday night’s fireworks display.
And if anyone was shocked, shocked, to see gambling in downtown Bristol, fans also buy tickets for each of the five heats to place bets on the winners. Tickets that supported heat winners go into a drawing for modest cash prizes.
Overall, according to Tuesday’s announcer and event organizer Shawn Oxford, the outhouse race reliably raises between $900 and $1,200 every year to support Bristol’s Independence Day celebration.
“It’s not insignificant,” Oxford said. 
   TEAMS COMPETE IN the final race during Bristol’s annual outhouse race Tuesday morning.

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