While everyone else heads out of town for the Memorial Day weekend, residents of Bellingham, where I live, are making last minute preparations for what is the biggest weekend of the year in town. Memorial Day in Bellingham means the annual ski to Sea Race. The race began 100 years ago as a way to promote the area to outsiders. Originally, individual racers competed in the 116-mile race which was repeated for the three following years before it was suspended during World War I.
It didn’t resume until 1966 and when it did, it became a three-leg relay race. Today, the 85-mile race begins on the mountain and ends in the bay with seven legs and eight racers. Thirty-two hundred racers on 400 teams compete in several different categories, from “competitive” teams that include Olympic-class athletes to the “Veteran” teams whose collective ages must total 385 years. The teams start off with the cross-country skier, followed by a downhill skier, a runner, a road biker, two canoers, a mountain biker and finishes with the sea kayaker.
For four years, I was the kayaker for my team, the Angst Ridden Mamas. My team surprised ourselves in our first foray into the race when we won third place in our category. But this year, I’m not competing in the race; I’ll be marching in the “Grand Parade” that takes place the Saturday before the race on Sunday. But the parade is not the only event of the weekend besides the race. There’s also an art show, a classic car show and a used book sale at the library, not to mention the huge block party that takes place at the end of the race in the area of town known as Fairhaven.
In short, it’s a hometown celebration of enormous proportions that draws people from all over the region and racers from all over the country, even the world. And this year, I’ll march in the Grand Parade with the synchronized umbrella drill team that is making its second appearance in the Ski to Sea parade.
So while others are heading off for the Memorial Day weekend, I’ll be here along with thousands of others celebrants, enjoying yet another big Ski to Sea weekend.