Competitors sought for wife carrying event in Menahga July 11
By SHANNON GEISEN
Move over downhill barstool racing.
Another unique sport is coming to town: wife-carrying.
The first annual St. Urho Wife Carry for Charity Challenge will coincide with the Menahga Midsummer Celebration on Saturday, July 11.
Strong men and tenacious women are invited to compete.
“It’s all about fun,” says organizer Greg Anderson.
Registration is limited to 50 teams.
Anderson mailed letters to local law enforcement, firefighters and charitable organizations to “drum up wife-carrying participants.”
Participants must be 21.
A team comprises a “husband” and “wife,” who don’t have to be legally married.
“It’s not always practical to have your real wife for the competition,” noted Anderson.
According to legend, St. Urho – the patron saint of Finland – was the first champion of old, carrying his wife Seneca “through hill and dale to show the boys how it was done,” said Anderson.
In Finnish wife-carrying contests, “traditionally, you win your weight in beer,” he said.
The St. Urho Wife Carry Contest offers a loftier goal: To raise awareness of charities statewide as well as create a lasting event for the Menahga community.
“All these small, local charities – no one know about them,” said Anderson.
Currently registered teams are racing on behalf of the Headwaters Animal Shelter, Bemidji’s Family Advocacy Center of Northern Minnesota, Toys for Tots in Baxter, the Shane Keranen Memorial Fund, the Fire Department Relief Association of Staples, the Central Minnesota Elder Network in Alexandria and the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes.
The first place winners’ charity of choice receives a hefty $250 check and the team hauls in their weight in prize money.
Plus, substantial bragging rights.
Second place wins the husband’s weight in money, while third place garners the wife’s weight.
“People have to be physically fit to do this,” said Anderson.
The “SUASA-sanctioned” course runs 270 yards in length.
Like a typical marriage, it traverses level and rough terrain and several obstacles. Two dry obstacles and one wet, to be exact.
The wife must weigh at least 100 pounds or carry a weighted belt to meet the requirement.
With wives slung over their shoulders, husbands will race alongside the streets of Menahga, bound across a sandy beach and charge full-speed through a portion of Spirit Lake.
Helmets are recommended.
Teams run the route two at a time in initial heats. The four fastest teams qualify for the final heat.
There are four customary styles of carrying the wife: Estonian, Fireman’s, Piggyback or the Suicide Carry.
It’s a freestyle event, however, so participants can create their own personal style.
Wife-carrying enthusiasts can be found in Finland, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, China, North and South America.
“It’s a real worldwide phenomenon,” said Anderson.
The first modern-day contest was held in Finland in 1992. The sport is said to be inspired by a 19th century robber, Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, and his band of thieves, who raided Finnish villages and stole women on their backs as they ran away.
There are now U.S. and world wife-carrying championships.
Anderson said he suggested the wife-carrying event to the Menahga Civic & Commerce, but found little enthusiasm there.
“I just decided to take the bull by the horns and do it,” said Anderson.
He contacted organizers of a wife-carrying contest in Wisconsin for advice and enlisted a friend’s expertise in event organizing.
A part-time mechanic at Menahga Farm and Home Lakes Area Cooperative, Anderson also manages the public TV access station for north-central Minnesota.
The St. Urho Wife Carry for Charity will be videotaped and aired on public access TV.
Anderson anticipates the St. Urho Wife Carry will be shown widely through an exchange network with other public access TV stations across Minnesota and the U.S.
“Wife-carrying could put this region and Menahga on the map,” enthused Anderson. “I have high hopes that we’ll get some network news people here.”
“Sign up!” he suggests. “If you’ve got someone to haul you around.”
SUASA claims to be a “group of old people with a lot of experience in sports who have a philosophy that rules make sports better and much more fun.”
Its mission is to standardize rules for unique sporting events.
“Rules reduce arguments, fights, law enforcement involvement and incarceration,” states the organization’s website (www.suasa.org).