North American Wife Carrying Contest in Maine

B E T H E L, Maine, July 10, 2000 -- — Not since residents built “Angus,” the world’s tallest snowman, has an event created such anticipation.

This ski town, which has a reputation for oddball events that attract publicity, is hosting the debut of the North American Wife-Carrying Championships, a 278-yard obstacle course which a man must traverse while carrying a woman.

Carrying methods include traditional piggyback, the fireman’s carry or something called the “Estonian carry,” said Paula Wheeler, director of development for the Mahoosuc Arts Council, the event’s sponsor.

Race Has Finnish Ties

“The sky’s the limit on this one,” Wheeler said.

As of today, 17 teams were registered from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, she said. Those contestants include bodybuilders and triathletes.

The race is based on a similar event held in Sankajarva, Finland, and the rules are loose.

“During the competition, each team will consist of a man and his wife, who can be his actual wife, someone else’s wife or a woman who is no one’s wife,” Wheeler said.

If a contestant has trouble finding a partner, organizers have located at least one woman willing to be carried.

Non-Traditional Races

“There will also be a Non-Traditional Wife Carrying Competition for the wife who wants to carry her husband, or the partners who want to carry their partners. All participants must be 18 years of age or older,” she said.

Wheeler also was the chief organizer behind Bethel’s effort to create, “Angus, King of the Mountain,” a 113-foot-tall snowman that residents say broke the world record for tallest snowman in 1999.

The snowman made national headlines, but the wife-carrying contest seems to be even bigger, Wheeler said.

The event will be covered by the BBC-TV from England, a radio station in Spain, the New England Sports Network, Runners World, ESPN, Good Morning America and Dateline NBC, she said.

Wheeler said the quirky stunts have helped seal the community’s reputation as a place to have fun. “It would be a good thing to be known for, I guess — trying the outlandish and making it work,” she said.