October 30, 2014

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Bed races return as Corn Festival celebrates 35th year

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — A colorful piece of North Ridgeville Corn Festival history is making a comeback this year with the return of the Bed Races, which were last run in 1987.

On the lookout to inject something new for the festival’s 35th year, the corn festival committee decided to revive the something old.

“We were looking for something different, and they were something people always seemed to have fun with, so we figured why not,” Corn Festival vice president and former Bed Race chairman, John Butkowski said.

One of this year’s teams is a true family affair, featuring cousins Dan and Steve Wade, and their wives, Julie and Tiffany, respectively. The foursome will propel a bed — a white-framed affair that was Tiffany’s as a child.

“It’s my childhood bed … I’m sacrificing it for this,” she said with a laugh.

Maria Workman, the team’s fifth member, will be the passenger.

Standing in the driveway of Steve and Tiffany’s Boulder Drive home discussing strategy, the foursome flanked the bed, which was covered with a sheet and a handmade “top secret” sign.

“We’re still in the process of designing it,” Tiffany joked.

When the races began in 1982 they were run on Bainbridge Road near the festival grounds.

“The problem was, the street was crowned higher in the center, and it made it kind of difficult to keep a bed going straight,” Butkowski said.

“We took caster wheels off a four-wheel dolly, and they weren’t very steerable. We kept going from one curb to the other.”

Talk of the bed races summoned memories of that first contest in which Butkowski was one of four pushers of the Cornstalker Express, a brightly decorated green and yellow bed whose rider was his wife, current City Council President Bernadine Butkowski, who was decked out in a green leotard, yellow “corn” suit, and crash helmet.

The “Express” went up against a team of strapping young city firefighters pushing a bright red hospital bed.

Despite a distinct age advantage, the smoke-eaters were beaten by the Butkowski team.

“We weren’t built for speed but we took them,” John Butkowski said.

Held on a typically hot, muggy August day, the race took its toll on the winners. The second heat saw the Express fall to a team of high school football players recruited by former mayor Floyd Peaco.

“We had just run a race so we were at a distinct disadvantage,” John Butkowski said. “They smoked us.”

The last bed race run in 1987 saw comedian and former North Ridgeville resident Martin Mull take part.

Mull brought an entourage of actors including Teri Garr and Fred Willard to town to film a comedy special for HBO. Mull’s team beat one headed by Steve Wade’s grandfather, Emery Hershey, the city’s first police chief.

Beds can be entered right up to race time at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the North Ridgeville Education Center parking lot off Center Ridge Road at Mills Creek.

Check-in time is 10 a.m. There is a $25 entry fee.

Teams will vie for trophies in three age divisions: 16 to 20, 21 to 40, and 41 and older.

One trophy will also be awarded for the best-decorated bed.

Corn fest facts

  • More than 7,000 ears of corn were steamed, roasted and eaten during the 2008 festival.
  • In 2002, the Corn Festival was named the best in Northeast Ohio by Cleveland Magazine.
  • Since its inception, the event has generated more than $80,000 for civic and charitable projects.

Admission and entertainment are free, but ride prices vary.

Shuttle service to and from parking areas at Wilcox Elementary School will be offered  noon to 6 p.m.

Call (440) 218-9802 or visit www.nrcornfest.org.

Corn Fest schedule

Here’s a look at highlights of this year’s festival:

Friday
6 p.m. – Festival grounds open
7 p.m. — Opening ceremonies
7:15 p.m. —Golden Kernel Award
8 p.m. — Pat Dailey performs
10:30 p.m. — Fireworks over South Central Park lake
11 p.m. — Grounds close

Saturday
9 a.m. to noon — car show registration
10 a.m. — Bed Race at North Ridgeville Education Center
Noon — Grounds open
Noon to 4 p.m. — Car show
1 to 3 p.m. — Children’s games
4 p.m. — Registration for corn-eating contest
4:30 p.m. — corn-eating contest
8 p.m. — Touch entertains
10:30 p.m. — Fireworks
11 p.m. — Grounds close

Sunday
Noon — Grounds open
1 p.m. — Corn hole tournament
2:30 p.m. — Grand parade
4 p.m. — Introduction of visiting queens
4:30 p.m. — Parade trophies
5 to 6:30 p.m. — The Sharp Edges perform
6:30 to 8 p.m. —  Kickin’ Back performs
8 p.m. — Grounds close

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.