By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
The bathtubs are back for the 32nd year.
Tomorrow night, in front of fans and television cameras, at least a dozen teams will line up on Main Street and strap into self-built, wheeled vessels that likely are not NHTSA-certified.
Then, as Capt. Jimmy Wilder said in the 1996 box-office hit “Independence Day,” it’ll be time to kick the tires and light the fires.
As of Tuesday, 12 teams had signed up to vie for the coveted Rubber Duck Trophy in the 32nd annual Berlin Bathtub Races.
Hundreds of spectators every year descend on Main Street to watch as bathtub racers compete in a double-elimination tournament.
“The races are sort of a culmination of the weirdness of this town,” said Ryan Nellans, executive administrator for the Berlin Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not super alien. It’s something knowable. Nothing more than a hundred-yard sprint but it’s in a bathtub. It’s a team event. It’s something that reminds me of a game that you’d come up with as a kid goofing off with your business in the backyard. We just never grew out of it.”
The event, which runs from 6-8 p.m., also features an introductory parade with all the participants. Nellans said organizers hope to start the first race by 6:15. There will also be a Hula Hoop contest, a rubber duck raffle and shops will be open. The Delmarva Sports Network will be televising the races live.
“Aside from bringing a lot of attention to the town, which is always what we’re trying to do, it brings a lot of folks in to hang out, spend money, visit some shops and stores,” Nellans said. “And it raises money for the chamber, which allows us to magnify efforts in those areas again.”
When it comes to the tubs, NellaNs said that entries run the gamut. Rain barrels, wash basins, literal bathtubs, water troughs — if wheels can be put on it, someone may just try to race with it.
Last year’s race was won by Camp Coast, a kids camping program within Worcester County Recreation and Parks.
Program manager Myro Small said the team, which also includes driver Ally Hernandez and Derek Jarmon, will be back to defend their trophy.
“I think it’s good to see the people of Worcester County come to support the small businesses in the area,” Small said. “It’s good marketing for us, too, our program here in the south county.”
As for the secret to his team’s success? WD-40, Small said.
“With a can of WD-40 you can make anything fly, my man,” he said.
The race is open to anyone who is over 16 years old and has signed a waiver. There is a $125 per team entry fee, but chamber members get a 20 percent discount.
Some of the other returning participants this year include Shepherd Realty, Deeley Insurance, Burley Oak Brewing Company, The Globe and Seaside Plumbing. Buzz Meadery will be racing for the first time, and in another twist, Mayor Zack Tyndall and Councilmember Jack Orris will race together.
For more information, visit https://berlinmainstreet.com.
This story appears in the print version of the Bayside Gazette on June 9, 2022.