BERLIN – Hundreds of excited onlookers lined the sidewalks along Main Street Friday as they cheered on their favorites during the 30th rendition of the Berlin Bathtub Races.
Nine local organizations showed off their best attempts at modified bathtubs Friday as they raced down Main Street at the much-loved annual event. After multiple heats, the team from Deeley Insurance Group was declared this year’s winner, outlasting previous two-time winner H.T. Harrison & Sons.
“It’s a tradition for Berlin and it’s a completely unique event,” said Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director. “It shows how much fun we can have no matter how old you are.”
Teams from Seaside Plumbing, Worcester Recreation and Parks, Deeley Insurance Group, H.T. Harrison & Sons Inc., The Globe, Costa Ventosa Winery, Burley Oak Brewing, Ocean Pines Pickleball and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing paraded down the street to kick off the event. A trio of volunteers donned bathrobes to push the classic red racer built by Jesse Turner, proprietor of the Berlin Shoe Box, when he helped start the bathtub races 30 years ago.
“We honored Jesse Turner by showcasing his five-time winning bathtub because he was the one who started it,” Wells said.
The tub is displayed throughout the year at the Berlin Welcome Center and also each December in front of the town’s Christmas tree.
“We use it to collect shoes to donate to Diakonia,” Wells said.
Though she doesn’t have an exact figure, Wells believes close to 2,000 people attended this year’s bathtub races.
“If you want to know how many people showed up, I can tell you the ladies room ran out of toilet paper by 6:30 p.m. and the event didn’t start until 6,” she said, adding that town staff had remedied that situation as soon as they’d been made aware of it.
Wells said attendees had enjoyed the races as well as the hula hoop contests hosted throughout. Fans were also kept entertained by the finish-line antics of Corporal Merle Bragg of the Berlin Police Department.
“He loves this event,” Wells said. He dances and has a great time. It just shows the community how Berlin is. We all get involved.”
Burley Oak’s Bryan Brushmiller, who pushed the brewery’s racer in this year’s event, agreed that the bathtub races were popular with both residents and visitors.
“I love the bathtub races,” he said. “It is a unique contest all small towns should have. An event like this is lighthearted and fun all while bringing the town together and bringing people to town.”
Wells said in the days since the event she’d heard people say it was one of the reasons they loved Berlin. She pointed out that most people who attended the evening event had been in town for hours before it started.
“They shopped, they had drinks, they had dinner,” she said. “They spent the whole day here. They don’t just come to the event and leave.”
Wells referenced comments made during the town’s budget approval process that indicated that residents didn’t benefit from events.
“I live here and I work here,” she said. “I must have seen 50 people that I know that live here that came. They came with strollers, they came with grandparents.”
She added that other towns were continually trying to recreate the successes of Berlin.
“We don’t compare ourselves to everyone else,” she said. “They compare themselves to us. We’re the leaders not the followers.”
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