Situated just a stone’s throw from the B.C. border, thousands passed through Blaine on their way to 2010 Vancouver Olympics a few short months ago. But on May 22, Blaine will be the epicenter of an international celebration of athleticism and camaraderie.
A few intrepid Blaine visionaries are asking locals and friends across the border to mark their calendars and witness the glory, speed and endurance that can only be found in The First International Slug Races.
In addition to arts and crafts, carriage rides, and food from local vendors, organizers of the Blaine Gardener’s Market will mark the opening day by racing slugs at noon, located on the H Street Plaza in downtown Blaine. According to organizer Ron Snyder, the mucilaginous athletes will demonstrate their iron wills on a painstaking 12-inch course. Organizers first wanted a longer course, but scrapped earlier plans, citing slugs' velocity.
“Otherwise, we’ll all be old by the time they cross the finish line,” Snyder said.
The event is open to everyone and is free. When the winning slug slimes its way to victory, whoever was fortunate enough to bring it will win the race's grand prize, a custom-made chocolate bar from Totally Chocolate. The bar's wrapper depicts a scene of the race with two slugs at full speed (or standing still, as it is difficult to tell), with the American and Canadian flags.
Like any competitive sporting event, the First International Slug Races is governed by strict rules. Racers may use only two methods to motivate their slugs across the border, by waving a lettuce leaf to lure the slug faster on its course, or by motivating it with a few squirts of a spray bottle. Snyder said that for slug safety, three things will be banned at the event: geese, salt, and beer.
For those without a farm full of slugs, Snyder and Cathy Taggett will let you choose from what they describe as their “stable of fine racers.” Snyder notes that American border guards may frown upon Canadians bringing slugs across the border, but they are certain to find slugs on the American side of the crossing at Peace Arch Park.
Organizers thought up the slug race at a recent “Blainestorming” meeting, in which Blaine residents brought new ideas to the chamber of commerce and other groups. Though a few American cities and towns have hosted slug races before, Blaine appears to be the first host of an international event. Along with cameras, Taggett and Snyder note that participants and spectators should bring patience and a sense of humor.
After the race is finished and all that remain are slime trails of victory and defeat, Snyder is unsure as to the fate of the winning and losing slugs. “Anyone can take them home just as long as they don’t drop them in my garden.”