It’s been said that women are often the ones to carry the relationship, but at this year’s Lakeland Country Fair and Rodeo, it will be the men’s turn to sustain the load.
In addition to the usual events set to take place at the popular annual festival over the July 14 weekend, attendees will be treated to a slightly more unusual though very interesting and zany race to the finish – the first-ever Alberta Wife Carrying Championship.
Even though tossing one’s wife over their back and racing a thousand feet through a series of obstacles that include a knee-deep water pit isn’t everyone’s idea of a grand old time, Aurel Langevin, president of the Lac La Biche Agricultural Society, couldn’t think of a better addition to the two – day – long country fair and rodeo.
“I became interested in wife carrying after watching competitions based in the United States and Finland, which in turn inspired me to want to bring the sport here,” Langevin explained, adding that the race at the upcoming Lakeland Country Fair is a first for Alberta.
“Our goal was to host a unique, fun, premiere event that the whole family can enjoy.”
Rules? Oh yes, there’s rules.
It may appear odd that wife carrying, which dates back to the Dark Ages in Finland, when Viking raiders, after ransacking and pillaging a village would run off with captured wives - would have any rules, but things aren’t always as they seem.
To be sanctioned by the North American Wife Carrying Championships, organizers of the event had to agree to follow certain rules and regulations.
“The length of the course must be 254 meters or 278 yards,” Langevin confirmed. “The teams race through two wet and two dry obstacles. These include a water pit that is required to be at least 15 feet in length, as well as over hay bales.”
While the rules surrounding the great sport of wife carrying are strict, the criteria regarding who may enter the arena are slightly laxer.
“Teammates are not required to be legally married,” said Langevin with a smirk. “It could be your girlfriend or even somebody else’s wife. The registration fee is $25 which includes a meal following the race.”
With just a few weeks to go before the Country Fair weekend, interest in the fun race has started to come from near and far.
Given its status as the first event of its kind to be held anywhere in Alberta, participants from across the province are invited to register. To date, a few teams have signed up to accept the challenge, and Langevin expects that number to grow in the coming weeks.
“We’ve definitely been working hard to get the word out there through newspapers and local radio stations,” he stated.
The registration fee is $25 which includes a meal following the race.
The winning team will not only get bragging rights, but also money and beer.
“The theme of our first Alberta Wife Carrying Championships is to have fun. Under official rules, the winning team is entitled to the wife’s weight in beer and two times her weight in cash, but we decided to up the ante and make it five times,” Langevin said. “The winning couple will be given the opportunity to compete in the North American Wife Carrying Championships, which take place later this year in Maine.”
Langevin is hopeful that after wife carrying makes its entrance onto the Alberta sports scene, it will be a smashing success, one that not only brings in the crowds, but men who look forward to literally carrying their wives…. at least one day out of the year.
While the fair is still a month and a half away, Langevin says the unique racing competiton is already getting people talking.
“So far, we’ve had a great response. The raceway has already been laid out and the county has generously provided us with portable bleachers that will enable spectators to get a great view of the participants,” he said. “With a bit of luck, hosting wife carrying championships will not only make our part of the world stand out, but also attract tourists to this region.”
Free entry if you send a video
How do you register? Information and a Google.docs registration form is available on the Lac La Biche Agriculture Society and Farmers Market social media page. To encourage participants, organizers are offering free registration to any couple who submits a "practice" video to the agriculture society's facebook page before June 30.