A humorous article I wrote that covered one of my town's Fourth of July traditions.
WILMINGTON - The smell of fried dough hung overhead and cacophonies of carnival sounds clamored as four intrepid teams - Wilmington Youth Hockey, Local Heroes, Arlene Ave All Stars, and Women of Wilmington - burst from the Fourth of July building in order to begin the annual racing of hospital beds. A sometimes treacherous endeavor, these teams came prepared for the intense level of competition that would make seasoned Olympic athletes weep with weary woe.
Something like that.
Wilmington’s annual hospital bed race came bearing new rules to make the competition a bit more difficult. This year, riders carried bedpans. They were to dismount the bed at the opposite end of the street, fill the bedpan filled with an unpleasant yellowish liquid, and sit back on the bed. Their teammates had to swiftly speed them back to the finish line. The bedpan had to be emptied, and it had to contain six ounces of liquid. Whichever team successfully completed this task won the event. Along with the race, there was also a ‘best decorated’ reward: the team with the most sleek and spiffy bed would receive a prize.
The Wilmington Youth Hockey team and Women of Wilmington, the first two teams to square off, approached the starting line and revved their illusory engines. The Youth Hockey team tore open a huge lead, easily defeating the Women of Wilmington team. They collected the necessary six ounces.
Local Heroes, in race two, started off slowly, but then banged to the front. Arlene Ave All-Stars, however, inched by to win the race. Local Heroes would not go gently into that good night, to quote Dylan Thomas, as they took an authoritative lead over Women of Wilmington in race three.
Race Four was Youth Hockey and Arlene Ave. This one was incredibly close, but Arlene Ave pulled away at the end to win. Race five brought Local Heroes and Youth Hockey to the track. Local Heroes, like a Zdeno Chara slapshot, flung themselves to victory.
The races now had begun to draw to a close. Local Heroes and Arlene Ave emerged as the top two teams and thus had to heave their hospital beds two and fro in a clash of the bed-panned titans. The crowd roared. This race was important: the announcer informed us as such. If Arlene Ave won, then they’d take the entire competition. If Local Heroes, however, won the race, then they’d had to face off one last time. Each team, during the race, seemed locked at the other’s side until Local Heroes took the win.
The final round, the final countdown: Arlene Ave and Local Heroes, in lockstep with previous races, remained in gridlock. Yet, at the end, Arlene Ave took the lead and poured the proper six ounces, cementing their win.
For their efforts, they were awarded T-shirts and, of course, glory.
Women of Wilmington, however, also didn’t go away empty handed, as their team was awarded the “Best Decorated” prize. Their bed, adorned with balloons and colors and a wonderful reworking of the logo for Disney/Pixar’s ‘Cars.’ It read: WOW.
The teams pulled their beds through the Common amidst cheers and applause from on-lookers. Though there were winners, everyone received a joyous reception - one should expect nothing less from Wilmington. And, as the teams prepared to go home and the sun lowered in the sky, onlookers were encouraged to form their own team.
This Wilmington tradition now lays dormant for another year. But, rest assured, it will return for next year’s Fourth of July. It, unlike the NBA or the NFL, will not lockout.