The highlight of Midsummer: Burnaby’s annual Wife Carrying Contest
New Westminster, B.C.
The teams had names like Tartan Trolls, Thighs to the Sky, and Mooove Over. “Wives” had to weigh at least 100 lbs. or “eat an extra helping of Swedish meatballs,” according to the rules. The winning team won the wife’s weight in Carlsberg beer, sponsor of the Carlsberg Cup.
Clearly this wasn’t the Kentucky Derby.
Under a broiling sun, people at the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Burnaby, B.C., lined up on either side of the makeshift racecourse of styrofoam obstacles and wading pools (the husbands had to get both feet wet before reaching the finish line).
Around a dozen teams entered this traditional Finnish race. But Finnish or not, any adult team could participate.
The rules were as silly as the race: regardless of being married or not (or even the gender), the “wife” shall be the contestant carried and the “husband” is the contestant doing the carrying. A husband could carry his wife, his neighbor’s wife, or someone found “further afield.” Inflatable wives “will be disqualified.”
The men carried their wives side-to-side and even upside down. A few even took a tumble on the grass course with their unique carrying style. But as the rules stated, “Husbands may carry their wives any way they choose.”
After a while the crowd—enticed by the MC with a microphone—yelled not for the winning runners in the relay races but the ones coming from behind. One made it to the finish line only to come crashing down. Ruled they crossed the finish line before collapsing, the only thing hurt seemed to be their pride.
In the final run for the cup and beer it was the tall-and-short team—she wasn’t even five feet while he was 6-6—of Thighs to the Sky with the winning time of 29.91 seconds. Pretty good considering Alysia Baldwin and Kent Hodgson, both 30 and from Vancouver, just returned that morning from Maui.
It was Baldwin and Hodgson’s first time running in the Wife Carrying Contest.
It took five cases of Carlsberg beer, stacked on top of each other, to equal the weight of Baldwin: 134 lbs. Clearly, this is not a race for a wife to be bashful about her weight; her “husband” (partner) weighed in at 250.
One of the security men asked if the winning couple needed help with the beer. “That’s the best line I’ve heard in getting some beer,” said a bystander to the security man wearing an orange vest. It caught him by surprise. But Baldwin and Hodgson caught the joke and laughed.
This article originally appeared in the July 3, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.