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Monday, February 14, 2011, Camden, Maine

Costumes at the 2011 US Nationals

Commentary
2011 US Nationals Toboggan Championship Vs. Super Bowl
By Tom Sadowski

Did you feel the righteous anger, the indignation, the belittlement when you heard that the 2011 US National Toboggan Championships were set back a week because of the Super Bowl? I know I did.

I had several arguments to present to the masses at the Nationals hoping to stir up protests and topple the monocratic toboggan committee dictatorship, Egyptian style, from kowtowing to the schedule of the NFL.

The Toboggan Nationals are just as important and every bit American as any football game. I went to the championships and argued hard to find supporters.

First there was the lyrics issue. I had to concede that we would probably never get a Christine Aguilera or a Carrie Underwood to sing at the base of the chute but Francis Scott Key can rest easy in his grave knowing that we have never rearranged the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner. In all of the years the anthem has been preformed at the Nationals, people report that it has been flawless. Of course it’s sung so early in the morning that spectators are groping for reality after their morning coffee. Personally, I wouldn’t know because I can’t concentrate on much at 7:55 AM.

Ticket prices are another matter. Even in a depressed market fans can expect to pay up to $3000 a ticket for the Super Bowl. I managed to get a ticket to the Toboggan Nationals from a scalper in the Hannaford parking lot for $45 after some haggling. And, because of a trusting atmosphere common in Maine, no one even checked my ticket at the Snow Bowl – although they did nick me $5 for parking.

People always bring up the wardrobe malfunction issue. The Nationals have plenty of them and you don’t have to study the re-play dozens of times to see exactly what happened. Participants are constantly ripping up or melting down their clothing as they run the chute. It’s typical to take a break so that hats, gloves, scarves, glasses, bits of snow pants, cell phone batteries, camera pieces and wigs can be cleared off the track after just one heavily costumed team takes a run.

This year, Darth Vader from Team #397, Return of the Sledi, lost his helmet not once, but twice to the chute in as many runs. Witnesses claim that at one point he was trying to force his helmet onto C-3PO’s head to keep it secure but it got away from him and landed in the track.

I caught up with Mr. Vader and asked about the incident. After a brief fight I managed to subdue him whereupon I learned that he was indeed my father. Afterwards he gave me some patriarchal tobogganing advice the most important being “Never bring your light saber on the sled”. Apparently his other worldly sword contacted the chute on the way down. It did not slice through the rickety wooden structure as may be expected but instead the chute put a neat 90 degree bend in the Jedi weapon of choice. “It did cut my pants” he explained suggesting the saber still wielded some power before adding “Who’s your daddy?”

The Super Bowl may have a halftime show but the Snow Bowl has the Tobogganville ghetto on Hosmer Pond where the show runs the entire weekend. This year bets were made by the chute crew as to how many vehicles the pond ice could support before one toboggan too many would send the entire village looking for the Coast Guard. Of course the Coast Guard was busy fielding its own teams and just adding to the weight on the ice. It turns out that Hosmer Pond ice can not only hold the vehicles and team tents; it will also tolerate generators, full commercial kitchens, furnished living rooms and college parties with rap music and wild dancing.

By the way, Super Bowl tailgate party tickets where you stand outside the stadium go for $335. per fan. I didn’t pay anywhere near that for access to the Tobogganville tailgate parties and I could still watch the toboggans fly out of the chute in spite of all the dancing, smoke and dogs in my immediate vicinity.

Over the weekend I polled the crowds to gather support for my position of taking back the weekend from the Super Bowl. Comments by out of state visitors like “pushing it back a week allowed us to come” didn’t help. I concluded that most people considered the Toboggan Nationals top priority over the Super Bowl so long as the Patriots or some specified team wasn’t in the game.

Apparently football is still dear to America’s heart but I figure that at the rate the Toboggan Nationals are growing in popularity, it will be bigger than the NFL well before the year 2530. I suppose die-hard toboggan fans will just have to adjust our schedules and bide our time.


059a Royal Dutch Nationals

Awarded Best Costume at the 2011 US National Toboggan Championships, the Royal Dutch National Toboggan Team (Team #220) set a new standard for detail and ostentatious glitz. In addition to their eye-popping color and remarkable size, the group attracted more attention by giving away multi-color wigs at the event. Left to right are Jacques Verest, Rob Vrolijk, Hans (did anybody get his lat name? Is there an English equivalent?) and Oscar Verest. The group also took the best costume award home in 2010 dressing up as little Dutch girls.


112a Collecting Ballets
Catherine Sfeir, claiming to be one of the volunteer staff at the Toboggan Nationals, collects ballots from spectators voting to choose the winner of the costume contest. Spectator voting was brought back this year after it was abandon many years ago in favor of a secret committee determining the winner. At that time, there were allegations of ballot stuffing and just plain old cheating on the part of some costumed characters. Since there was no voter registration and no United Nations oversight of the voting process- and since ballots were available by the hand full, everyone concerned was thankful that all present were so honest about voting only one time.

096a Return of the Sledi

In this light-saber-enhansed photo, left to right are Darth Vader, Princess Leia Organa, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the android C-3PO who make up the 4 person Team #397, Return of the Sledi. In real life Darth Vader (Josh Povic) is married to the princess, Obi-Wan is married to C-3PO (!) and C-3PO is Darth Vader's twin sister (!!)

089a
Based out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Team #370, the Drag Racers, pose near the toboggan chute during the costume parade. Since the question came up about the team being registered in the 4-“Man” division, the situation became awkward and individual names were not revealed. The team placed 169th in preliminary races, did not qualify for the finals, and were never seen again.
109a WedSled
Registered from York, Maine, Team 134, WedSled, passed out champaign in little plastic cups trying to earn votes in the costume contest. The wedding party managed 59th position in the preliminary races and did not qualify for the finals.

083a BeSleded Team #368, Besleded, Off with Your Sled, came all the way from Brookline Massachusetts to compete. From the left is Queen Marie Antoinette, Queen Anne Boleyn, the Nine Day's Queen Lady Jane Grey and Mary, Queen of Scots. The team did not qualify for the finals but it was nothing to lose your head over.

12-138Web Hoggin the Toboggan Team members from Hoggin' The Toboggan, Team #333 add much needed mid-winter color to the Nationals with their first appearance at the races. Good thing they were wearing their sunglasses because the Rockport, Maine team performed miserably in the preliminary races posing a time good enough for 172nd place. They did not qualify for the finals but hey, they get to keep the pink wigs.


105a David DickeyDavid Dickey shows off his colors during the costume parade at the 21st Nationals. Participants mill around on Saturday afternoon trying to gather support from spectators in order to get enough votes to win the costume contest... Oh never mind, Dickey is not on a team, he's part of the chute crew.
130Web No information on this team but they were really weird.

097aBlue tarp Melissa Morbillo from the team Blue Tarp Maineiacs, Team #22 from the Sebasco Harbor Resort in Phippsburg, Maine, loiters around the chute area looking to gather votes for her team in the costume contest. She reported that their theme for 2011 was “blue tarps”..


363a Fastest all Female team Spuddy from the Maine Potato Board attempts to scare dogs and small children away by demonstrating that a giant potato can not only sprout eyes but hands, feet, a nose and mouth as well. The tuber, animated by a Mrs. White of Easton, Maine was here to support Team #2, Tater Picker Express, registered from Buxton, Maine. The 2 Person Division Team placed 91st in the qualifying races only because four registered teams did not run at all. If they had, chances are very good that Spuddy's team would have come in 95th place.
117a Sue Zdanowicz and company Adding more color to a gray weekend was, from left, Kim Hess, Tony Antonino, Susie Zdanowicz and Jay Hess all from different communities in Connecticut. It was never clear if this group was registered as a toboggan team or if indeed they were in costume or their normal street clothes. Zdanowicz commented that the group had a theme centered around tequila and gasoline but she was vague on detail. The troop had won the costume award at the Nationals some years ago but apparently lost their way when gasoline took them far south of the border and well, alcohol did the rest.


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