When I was making my travel plans to Ottawa I had a look at all the events that are part of Winterlude, Ottawa's Winter Festival, and there was one event that caught my attention right away: the 26th Annual Bed Race at Dows lake.After a nourishing breakfast at the Lord Elgin Hotel, Theresa and I laced up our skates and made our way on the longest skating rink in the world, the 7.8 km long Rideau Canal Skateway, to Dows Lake, where the Bed Race was going to be held.A stage and comfortable resting place for the judges of the 26th Annual Bed Race.I looked for the organizers to get a bit more information about this event and I was able to connect with Steve Georgopoulos, one of the main organizers from the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa, the organization that has been organizing the Bed Race for the last few years.
Steve is also the General Manager of the Les Suites Hotel in Ottawa and has been instrumental in getting this special event off the ground.The motto of the Kiwanis International is "Serving the Children of the World", and they do this in a number of ways, from providing hands-on service to organizing fundraising events. Steve talked about the great sense of camaraderie that develops when people come together and donate their time to help others.Steve explained that the race has been part of the Winterlude Festival for the past 28 years. It was originally run by the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, and revived in 2003 by the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa after the Ice Storm nixed the race in 2001, and a short hiatus in 2002.This year the race will raise approximately $50,000 and the 2006 proceeds will go to the Kiwanis Read-A-Thon.
The Precious Minds Read-a-thon is an event that is designed to encourage children to become better readers. And it does so by inspiring them to read more often, try out new books and have fun while they are doing it. The Read-A-Thon is in its third year and the Kiwanis Club provides new books for libraries in various schools.
So far 47 schools have been included with a total of 17,000 students. An estimated 100,000 books are to be read.40 teams entered this year, and they came from a wide variety of organizations, including the Ottawa Police, the Fire Fighters, 5 teams from the local Algonquin College, a number of teams from local hotels such as the Lord Elgin Hotels, Les Suites and teams from other local companies.
Steve mentioned that there even is a family that has entered the bed racing competition, 5 cousins whose mothers are sisters with a common grandfather. They entered for the first time last year to celebrate a family member's 80th birthday, just something special to do. Of course there are very specific rules for this event: the beds entered in the competition have to be no smaller than 1.8 m by 0.
9 m (6 by 3 feet), and they have to have a frame, head board and foot board. The frame must be made of metal for safety reasons. Mattresses are not required, although the springs must be covered. And the bed must be on wheels, skis or skates are not acceptable.The teams can win in one of three categories: speed, decor and fundraising. Of course everybody wins since the proceeds of this event go to a great cause.
The title sponsor of the 2006 event is a company called Bedzzz, and the presenting sponsor is Allstream, a network solutions provider. The event was emceed by Max Keeping, a true Ottawa celebrity and respected community leader. Max is the evening anchor of the 6 pm Ottawa News on CTV and I had a chance to talk to him a little.
Max is originally from Newfoundland and has lived in the Ottawa area for many years and is very proud to promote his chosen home town. He welcomed the large group of onlookers to the Bedzz Races by referring to Ottawa as "Every Canadian's second home town".We also had a chat about Winterlude and that it is an amazing festival. Rather than allowing people to gripe about the long tough winter, it gets everybody out on the streets and on the canal to party to celebrate the great things that winter has to offer.After the introductory remarks, the races got underway, with many rounds of elimination to narrow down the field to the eventual winners.
There is no doubt that some of the beds weren't constructed for aerodynamics, as a matter of fact, some of the contraptions seemed to somewhat disintegrate out on the racetrack.The teams made a valiant effort to push the beds down the icy raceway, and depending on the design of the wheels, some teams just flew down to the finish line, while others, particularly the ones with very small wheels, took their sweet time to reach the finish.Steerability was another issue: some of the beds had a hard time staying on track and it was very prudent for the photographers to get out of the way when these out-of-control vehicles came careening toward the finish area. Some of the racers pushing the beds lost traction and were sliding all over the frozen lake on their rear ends. At certain points I had a hard time taking pictures because I was actually laughing so hard. This wasn't helped by the fact that I was the only reporter on skates documenting this event.
But skating is part of the true Winterlude experience and I was definitely experiencing the real thing. Well, a travel writer's job is never over: I had another event on my schedule - the Fire and Ice Culinary demonstrations at Confederation Park. So much to my chagrin I had to leave the bed race behind and make my way back about 7 km on the Rideau Canal. I found out later that the team from Apollo Property Management had won the fundraising competition, while the International Union of Elevator Constructors - Local 96 was the fastest bed.
The best decorated bed was won by the Gordon Group, with Les Suites Hotel a close second.All in all the bed race was a great event, the teams had fun, the audience saw a great hilarious spectacle, and a good chunk of money was raised for a great cause..Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions (http://www.travelandtransitions.
com). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.Submit your own travel stories in our first travel story contest (http://www.travelandtransitions.
com/contests.htm) and have a chance to win an amazing adventure cruise on the Amazon River."Life is a Journey Explore New Horizons".
The story with photos is published at Travel Stories and Photos (http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/ottawa_bedzz_races.htm).
By: Susanne Pacher