Article by Alexa Tironi
The wheels squeak and crackle on the pavement, attached to a four-poster bed and a mattress, as they barrel towards the finish line. Four people make the wheels turn, pushing the bed by an iron rod attached at each corner, while a fifth person lays flat on the mattress and tries not to fall off.
It’s called bed racing, a 55-year-old fundraising sport, and an old Fall Festival tradition in Blairstown, NJ. Here’s how it works: teams of five or six decorate their bed according to a chosen theme, each run their race individually— fastest time wins.
At Blairstown’s most recent festival, Saturday the 16th, seven bed racing teams competed for the trophy (a bedpost spray painted gold, but it’s more about the bragging rights anyway). Hosted by the Blairstown Enhancement Committee (BEC), the Fall Festival was held at Footbridge Park rather than Main Street, as it has in years past.
But the park is the perfect venue, the fall leaves that scatter the ground look like a colorful patchwork quilt and the sun is out and warm. It’s that time of year where you can enjoy the pumpkins and apple cider without cold fingers and toes.
This year’s bed race was the first contest held after over two decades of abandonment. Kevin Doell, the communication director for the BEC, explained the reason behind the revival of this town tradition saying, “It’s building community— it’s something fun, light-hearted, everyone can agree upon it, let’s just come out and have a good time.”
The day of the festival, it was Doell who refereed the races. Standing in the bed of a parked pickup truck, holding a megaphone and an air horn, he had the energy of a NASCAR commentator.
“And they’re off, and they’re quickly learning about the finer points of bed racing. Coming past the hay bales they reach the halfway point!”
To the team dressed as eggs and bacon, he shouts, “Here comes breakfast in bed! Are the racers ready? Talk about fast food!”
A team of doctors dressed in scrubs joins the race, along with a family of skeletons, elves and a group of ministers wearing clerical collars. In the end, Team Breakfast took the competition sunny side up to win the day.
Take a deep breath and you can smell the aroma floating from the food trucks idling near the parking lot, serving the crowd as they chew and sway to the music played by a local band. People sit for face paintings, peruse tables run by local art vendors, and meet representatives of local organizations.
Paul Avery, the project manager to Blairstown’s up-and-coming online newspaper, the Ridge View Echo, said the day’s activities were a “Great event for the town. I think this was such a success, it’s really established it as an annual event now, it’s gonna be great.”
Head of advertising to the Ridge View Echo and a Rotarian, John Maxman, chuckled, remembering the last Fall Festival, and Bed Race he ran in, “And then, after, we sold the bed! Somebody bought the stupid bed, why, I don’t know!”
After the races, people begin to meander about the park. Under the pavilion, big orange pumpkins are set up on picnic tables next to bottles of paint and brushes, while kids decorate them to their liking.
Under a tent, Ashely Hineline takes pictures of her 5-year-old daughter, Emerson, as she gets her face painted. With butterfly-covered cheeks, Emerson bounces around talking about the bed races and her pumpkin painting plans. Hineline heard about the event from Facebook. “I thought it seems like a really great thing for our community and a lot of fun. I brought my children, my mother, my mother-in-law…it’s a big family outing.” Hineline is a teacher at Blairstown Elementary School and mentions that she enjoys seeing past students and their families. As if on cue, two children come pinwheeling down the hill, shouting her name, to hug her from both sides.
A FUTURE VISION FOR FOOTBRIDGE PARK
A week before the festival, BEC members brought a bed down to the local farmer’s market to do some last-minute advertising. President Dave Paulson explained the organization’s focus on Footbridge Park for the festival and future projects.
“Footbridge park is actually one of the most underutilized resources we have here, it’s largest public parking space in town, and it’s directly attached or adjacent to the main street. We have a one-of-a-kind historic footbridge that leads from the park over to the downtown area… that may be the place where you start putting your first building blocks…it all made sense”
After the Fall Festival, Footbridge Park’s revitalization will continue in unique ways. BEC membership director, Evie Tilney, spoke about the up-and-coming projects, the first being a concrete-poured skate park. Around 25 years ago plans for a skatepark were submitted to the town committee, but the proposal was denied.
“Now that it’s an Olympic sport I think a lot of folks understand that it’s a really healthy, productive physical activity,” said Tilney.
She continued, “It would be a recreation spot for young people who may not be involved in other things like organized teams… kids can go hang out, skate, and then you can walk across the highway to go get a sandwich or get a drink at Dale’s…it’s really easy to spend time with people.”
Tilney grew up in Blairstown, then moved to big cities such as Cambridge, New York City and Barcelona. But a few years ago, she decided to come back.
“I think it [Blairstown] has a lot to offer…but a lot of the resources that used to be here are no longer here… What this town needs, is to have a healthy and vibrant looking downtown, one where the shops are filled, people can stay in business, where a young person or an old person can maybe go get food or walk around.”
Preserving small towns is a popular concept these days as older Americans look for windows into the past— their hometowns growing up. The BEC seeks to preserve, but Tilney says that’s not their only mission.
“We’re more focused on looking at the resources we have and the buildings we have available, using them to their best ability and taking care of them, it’s less focused on a sense of nostalgia because in my mind nostalgia isn’t always an accurate representation of how things actually were.”
She continued, “I think it is important to not stay married to an idea of how things were and look at the current conditions of what the town is asking for…it’s not just about preserving something for the sake of preservation.”
The Blairstown Enhancement Committee would like to thank the community for the outpouring of support for our first annual Blairstown Fall Festival!
A very special thank you to our event sponsors, volunteers and vendors. Apologies in advance if we miss anyone on this list, but we’d like to acknowledge the contributions of the many people that pulled together to make this event a success…
The Beehive Workshop (trophy/medal engraving)
Blairstown Enhancement Committee Volunteers
Blairstown MOMS club
Blairstown Station CrossFit
Buttzville Brewing Co.
Brad Eamigh & friends
The Cycle Exchange
Doreen Neggia Pandiscia
Grand Rental Station
HPC (walking tour)
Karen Klein/Art Magic
Lighthouse Real Estate & Property Management
Mark Anthony Construction
Matthew Keller for the bed rides
North Warren HS Interact Club
Remax Ridge Realty
Sara Bennett & Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary
Skyland World Travel
Water Street for the live music
Thank you for the event photos, Steadroy Douglas Photography, Robert Pannullo and Bob Halberstadt at Blairstown News.
Essentially, the bed race entails getting a team together of 5 people that will push a carriage, upon which sits a twin mattress-sized bed, approximately 150 yards.
Teams can include minors so long as the guardians sign a release, which will be provided when finalized.
One person sits in the bed while the four others push the bed down a course. At the course midpoint, the person in the bed hops out, rings a bell, and returns to the bed. The racers then push the bed back to the starting line.
Each team races the clock on a single lane. The team may get two heats to generate their best time depending on the number of entries.
Another option is to “parade” a Team’s own bed down the course in the “float” category. No running is needed. You just decorate to the hilt and look to win on creativity.
To register, go to https://www.blairstownfallfestival.com/
To submit the entry fee, please donate $75 on the PayPal site on the BEC Donation Page.
Racers should also review the formal rules document before the big day.
Thank you for joining us in this fun event!
As the BEC has absorbed the mission of the former Greater Blairstown Business Association, a new project team has come together to help local businesses. Mary Adelman and McKitrick Chabot are putting a new program in place to help local businesses thrive. More information to come soon on the BEC website. In the meantime you can send an email to Business@Blairstownbec.com for details.
On March 8, the team held a free webinar to help entrepreneurs understand the extremely valuable free service provided by Google called “Google My Business.” Watch the video below for how to use this powerful marketing tool.
Our spring clean-up day fell prey to COVID-19, but now that New Jersey is on the mend, we thought it would be good to get back out there to help Blairstown shine!
The Blairstown Enhancement Committee is issuing a call for volunteers to show their hometown patriotism July 4 through 11 by participating in a summer clean-up event. A “Summer Sweep!”
Yes, there is always “sweeping” to be done, but there is always more. The idea is that we list “Jobs to be Done” around the town right here on Sign up Genius. Citizen Volunteers choose a task from the list they would like to tackle with their close friends and family in a safe and responsible manner.
If you don’t see something on the list, come up with your own clean-up idea and share the fruits of your labor.
No matter what project you tackle, be sure to take pictures of your group displaying your hometown pride and send them along to Together@blairstownBEC.com.
COVID-19 may have gotten us all down, but not out! Hang in there Blairstown! We got this!
Ravi Romano shared his perspectives on the state of real estate in northern Warren County as of October 2019. Ravi sees the Blairstown area as attracting folks with a special “flare” who enjoy the tranquil country life.
As the new BEC President, Dave Paulson took a few minutes to describe the purpose of the BEC and what his goals are for the group in the year head.
On August 26, the BEC enacted a new organizational structure.
The goal of the structure is to care for the management of the non-profit’s administration and support needs while setting the stage for the success of Project Team Leaders from the community who will drive the projects they have a passion for.
The official BEC Board of Directors now consists of:
- Dave Paulson – President
- Olga Brazaitis – Treasurer
- Theo Padavano – Secretary
The Board will be supported by operational directors tending to key functions:
- Kevin Doell – Communications
- Pat Kennedy – Fundraising
- Cheryl Paulson – Membership
Project Team Leaders will vary by project.
Special thanks to Bob Law for his years of leadership as BEC President, as well as Sue Habermann, Gina Trish, and Luke Twomey for their service as board members. We look forward to continuing our work together on the many great projects ahead!
For insights on incoming BEC President Dave Paulson’s goals for the coming year, checkout the quick podcast interview with Kevin Doell.
A flag-raising ceremony at the Siddhachalam Jain ashram located on 111 Route 521, Blairstown, took place July 4. The beautiful new 35’ foot pole and flag was unfurled with great pride by Siddhachalam Trustees and Community and Township Council members. We are fortunate to have this beautiful sanctuary in our town and BEC looks forward to continuing working with the wonderful people of this community. To learn more about the Ashram visit www.siddhachalam.org.
After taking a year off, the July 4th Duck Race sponsored by Blairstown Rotary returned with the grand prize going to Jeanette Iurato. Blairstown Hose Company was the primary recipient of the proceeds.
BEC member Bob Halberstadt became NJ’s (and possibly the country’s) oldest firefighter at the age of 78. Recently graduating from Warren County Fire Academy-Fifth Class with 200 hours of training under his belt, he received his New Jersey state Firefighter 1 certification last month. Turning 79 on July 4, Bob is now a volunteer for Blairstown Hose #1. In addition to 25 plus years of EMS experience, he is also Blairstown’s resident photographer and editor of Blairstown News. Great work Bob and thank you for your service.
NJ DOT is planning to build a retaining wall to guard against falling rocks along Interstate 80 through Delaware Water Gap. This will forever change the viewshed and beauty of the area and have severe impacts on local economies and communities, not to mention traffic flow, tourism and the potential impact on wildlife. Please join BEC in writing to federal and state transportation officials to appeal for more research into the impact of this project.
Opinions and concerns may be sent
In memory of beloved Blairstown citizen and former Blairstown Elementary School (BES) Superintendent THOMAS C. GROSS, a dedication of the BES gymnasium took place June 8. The gym was named in his honor, paying homage to his 37 years serving as physical education teacher, principal and superintendent; his participation with many other local and state educational organizations; and his many years of service in the betterment of the Blairstown community (Blairstown Open Space Committee and BEC).
Come check out the beautiful mural at Footbridge Park executed by Blair Academy’s LEAD’s class in May. In addition to cleaning debris in one of the coal bins and painting the mural, Blair students mulched the playground, planted trees, and contributed money toward repairing the playground set.
Blair Academy’s LEAD’s class under the direction of faculty member Tyson Trish, will be renovating areas in Footbridge Park in May. Renovations include repairing the playground set, mulching the playground, and planting trees. In addition, the students will be cleaning debris by the coal bin, removing graffiti, and painting a mural on the bin.
A new sign featuring Eco-tourism in Blairstown will soon be installed on Route 94. Funded by Blairstown Rotary and designed by BEC, the new sign will replace the existing, rotting structure on Rt 94 (across from Buck Hill Brewery) and will swap places with the Blairstown Welcome sign previously designed & donated by the BEC.
This month’s CARE Meeting also drew a big crowd!
- Greater Blairstown Family Support Group held two meetings this month. The group is open to family members or anyone dealing with a drug crisis. Meetings are held second & fourth Fridays, 7pm at the North Warren Counseling Center on Stillwater Road. FMI, contact Jim Perry at email@example.com.
- PSA video for NW staff & students in the works
- Main Street Cameras – Initiative between CARE & Blairstown PD as part of a “See Something, Say Something, Show Something” campaign.
To learn more about these & other CARE initiatives, come to our next meeting Monday, April 15th (Third Mondays) 7-8:30pm at 3 Water St. All welcome!