By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — The Deerleap Books team dashed into first place at the 27th annual Bristol Outhouse Race on July 4, and won the grand prize as the 2006 champions. In the final heat, they defeated teams sponsored by the Bristol Historical Society, Snaps Restaurant, and Robinson Elementary School with a time of 21 seconds.
This is the team’s second win in as many races. The store did not sponsor a team last year, but the year before that they had the winning team as well, according to owner Carol Wells.
“We’re going to start a dynasty,” joked Barry Vitz, 37, one of the team’s two runners.
Tuesday’s race followed its traditional course on West Street, starting at Saint Ambrose Church and ending at the stoplight.
In the past, the race was a more ambitious event. The idea came from a dare at a New Year’s Eve party, according to Larry Gile, who helped organize the first one in 1979. Racers would run around the entire circumference of the green instead of one side of it, pushing a real outhouse.
But that changed soon, partly for safety reasons. Now racers push outhouses decorated as they choose, but made with standardized frames. Wheels on the outhouses must be three inches or less in diameter. Every outhouse must have sides, a top and a door, the rider inside must wear a helmet, and all team members must be at least 13 years old.
Gile, who acted as official race starter, was happy with how Tuesday’s race came off. “It went very smoothly,” he said. “We had a good group of teams. An excellent group of teams, in fact.”
Vitz, who is Wells’ nephew and a resident of Red Lion, Pa., first saw the race four years ago when came to Bristol to spend the Fourth with his family.
He said the winning team took preparations for the event seriously. “The hardest part of the whole event is to stay straight, and we practiced that,” Vitz said.
The other runner in the team was Mason Coleman, 18, a Bristol resident who last month graduated from Mount Abraham Union High School, where he had been a member of the track team. And riding in the outhouse was Vasily McCausland, 14. Both Coleman and McCausland are the children of employees of the bookstore, according to Vitz.
The race had four heats, each with three different teams. A final fifth heat was made up of the winners of the previous heats.
According to Vitz, they had to deal with strong competition in both their heats. “In our heat we had two very good competitors,” he said. “(And) we had a lead in the last heat, but I knew they were catching up on us.”