A total of 88 teams and around 630 competitors dressed as children’s TV and film characters caused a stir at the 49th Knaresborough Bed Race. JAMES METCALF reports.
Scooby Doo and the Mystery Team, Wacky Races, the Flintstones, many minions from Despicable Me, and hundreds of other familiar faces from the screen were seen throughout Knaresborough this weekend as the town hosted its 49th Bed Race.
Unusual a sight as ever, thousands of spectators crowded the streets for the parade of 88 teams as they worked their way through the town, accompanied by music, dancing, and a great deal of welcome spectacle.
Just hours later, at Conyngham Hall, the race itself got under way and the beds, stripped of all decoration, hurtled once more through the streets before taking a dip in the River Nidd just ahead of the finishing line.
President of the Knaresborough Lions Club, which organises the event, Malcolm Jennings said: “It seemed to go very well. It was nice that it got nice and warm in the afternoon and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
“We introduced a great deal of visitors to the town on the day. Certainly in the order of 25,000 to 30,000.
“All the feedback I have had is very positive and with the sun coming out it made it a lovely day, as it often does, and we are talking now about what we are doing next year.”
With some impressive displays of innovation and creativity, Knaresborough Mayor Tony Handley opened the race and was suitably pleased to be taking part.
“It is an unbelievable event,” he said.
“I live at the bottom of the high street and every year we have a huge party and watch it, but to actually be involved and to walk through the town to see all those thousands of people there is unbelievable.
“It is the proudest day of my life. What a privilege.”
It was a day enjoyed by everyone there to compete, as well as everyone watching, as the spirit of the event - a wacky combination of imagination and good sportsmanship - became increasingly clear with each prize giving.
The best-dressed top spot went to last year’s winners the First Scriven Scouts. Their bed was an impressive dedication to Despicable Me, taking on the guise of Gru’s car, and with the scouts themselves all dressed as minions, they brought colour and team work to the party.
Geoff Ward, who constructed the award-winning float, said: “I have some experience with this sort of thing. This is probably about the tenth or twelfth bed I have built. I built a dragon last year, which we were very pleased to win with.
“I had heard of Despicable Me but never seen it so I hired the video and thought it was fantastic and decided that Gru’s car would be very fitting. I started building it in parts and it was put together for the first time yesterday.
“The minions are the handiwork of the scouts and 24 costumes were made over the course of the last two weeks. They are absolutely fabulous and they really set it off.
“It is about the spectacle and we have got all the scouts taking part. It is not just building a bed and letting them push it. Everyone is getting involved.”
Delighted for his team, scout group leader Andy Knight said after the prize-giving: “You can never take these things for granted but a lot of effort has gone into it. We have had a lot of help from a lot of people and we have been working on the bed for a very long time.”
This was, however, a hard award to decide according to judge and Knaresborough Scriven Park Coun Anne Jones (Lib Dem).
She said: “I thought the work that had gone onto the scout’s bed was just amazing, but I have to say so many of the beds had put a lot of effort into it.
“I think this year the standard was even greater than last year, if that’s possible. We had five highly commended beds and three winners. That’s how close it was.”
There was also a very high standard for the race itself, with returning champions Harrogate Harriers taking first place again as the fastest team and the Ripon Runners took the fastest female team result for the third time.
Harrogate Harriers knocked 20 seconds off their time from last year, crossing the line at 12.51, and second place team Planet Steel were close behind, coming in at 13.14.
Though the race followed a different course this year, Knaresborough Lions Club secretary Nigel Perry said the teams still performed brilliantly.
He said: “It is a slightly shorter course, but Harrogate Harriers and Planet Steel were so far ahead of the others and overall that was a very fast time. To come in under 14 minutes is exceptional.”
Two teams taking part, sponsored by Verity Frearson, included six parents of children from Oatlands Infant School dressed as characters from the Sound of Music and Disney princesses.
Matthew Stanford of Verity Frearson said: “We’re thrilled to be sponsoring the Oatlands mums and dads once again. It’s been great to see the school community getting involved in pulling it all together and the teams have been putting in some serious training to beat last year’s result. It’s a fantastic day out for all.”
Before the race the Ripon Runners spoke about their nerves and the changes to their team since last year.
Donna Riddler is one of the team mates for the Ripon Runners who were dressed as Alice in Wonderland. She said: “I have done it before and we have won it for the last two years as the female best, so this will be our third year as the first female team across the line.
“We have been doing the race for six or seven years and we always came second to a team that had 12 years of winning, but then we took the crown. We are hoping to win again this year.
Her team mate Jill said: “I am very very scared because they all go very very fast.
“I am only taking part because of pregnancies, and it will be my only time. I am a registrar and I’m usually marrying people on a Saturday so I haven’t event seen this before.”
The most entertaining team award went to the Tewitt Youth Band, and St John’s Juggernauts were the team that raised the most money for charity.
Preparations for the race started at 9am, according to marshall John Scarborough, who took part in his second event as a race official.
“I think there are more involved this year and I have helped push a bed this time too. It is busy all the way round, which is good. It is a fantastic event,” he said.
It was all worth the effort though, as Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, who was on the start line, fully appreciates.
He said: “It is one of the very best days of the year. It brings everybody together and you just see how much creativity, imagination, and sheer humour there is.
“It is a huge day, and mostly because it has got a fantastic level of support behind it.
“I thought the creativity of the beds hit a new high - there was such a sense of imagination and fun - and a carnival atmosphere throughout the day. The Bed Race brings the whole community together in a marvellous way.
“The Bed Race is an unmissable fixture in the Knaresborough calendar and I want to thank the Lions, the competitors and the spectators for making this year’s event the wonderful success that it was.”