It may have just turned 40 years old but that doesn’t mean Ucluelet’s signature summer feature can’t learn new tricks.
During its 40th anniversary celebration over the weekend Ukee Days unveiled a heavily fan-fared new event The inaugural showing of the Ukee Days Wife Carrying Contest was a hit amongst spectators and participants as an excited group of 12 teams signed up to kick it off.
Each “husband” was tasked with carrying his or her “wife” through an obstacle course that included jumping over hay bails, climbing over logs, and maneuvering around pylons before sprinting to the finish line.
Ucluelet’s director of parks and recreation Abby Fortune said her staff pushed hard for the event to be included in this year’s Ukee Days and she was thrilled with the result.
“We always try to do a new event every year and this was the event we wanted to do,” she said. “After 40 years you still want to keep it fresh, which is always the ongoing challenge.”
The event was held on Sunday afternoon and Clint Haley was able to recruit best friend Hayley Clarkson to be his “wife” just that morning.
In their first heat, Haley carried Clarkson across the finish line in 22.43 seconds earning a spot in the finals where he dug deeper and churned his legs to a 19.68 finish and championship title.
“It was a great, great, experience,” Haley told the Westerly after the event. “I think more people should participate next year.”
Clarkson said she was extremely proud of Haley’s performance but admitted to being somewhat nervous as he carried her through the course.
“I was scared I was going to be dropped a little bit -not going to lie -but it was fun,” she said.
Haley, 20, is a former Tofino local who is spending his summer in Ucluelet before heading back to Kamloops where he is studying to become a nurse.
Clarkson, 20, is also a former Tofino resident and now resides in Victoria.
The pair represents Ukee Days’ ability to lure back former locals.
“Things come and go and change but we’ve still been able to keep this festival very strong and the tell-tale is a lot of people that used to live on the West Coast come back (for it),” Fortune said. “It’s like a homecoming for a lot of people.”
Municipal councillor Sally Mole was carried through the course by husband Tom Saunderson. event from Ucluelet’s parks and recreation team and threw her own hat into the ring and lobbied others in an effort to ensure solid participation.
“I thought it was a great idea and I really wanted it to be a success so I was throwing out challenges to other couples hoping there would be a good turnout and the event would be successful,” she said.
She was thrilled with the experience and said she “absolutely” hopes to see the event at next year’s Ukee Days.
“We are still laughing about it,” she said on Monday. “It was awesome.”
The sport originated in Finland and anyone impressed with their Sunday performance is encouraged to consider participating in the Wife Carrying World Championships which will celebrate its 20th annual showing in Sonkajarvi, Finland, on July 4th 2015, according to the World Championship’s official website.
According to the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules posted on the website “wives” competing in the world championships must weigh at least 49 kg or be weighed down with rucksacks.