On July 17, the first ever Ore Cart racing tournament was held at Bohemia Mining Days in Cottage Grove.
The tournament consisted of eight carts in a double elimination tournament with two carts at a time facing each other head-to-head. Three people competed with each cart, two teammates pushing while the other sat inside.
The object of the race was to push the cart down and back one block of Main Street faster than their competitor. The catch was that once the cart made it to one side of the block, the seated teammate (the “Tommyknocker”) would have to load the cart with three heavy sacks before turning the cart around and returning to the finish line.
Contestants professed a variety of reasons for wanting to take part in the race, but the atmosphere of friendly competition remained consistent among the teams.
“I had this old raggedy cart that needed use which made me want to do this,” said Heather Lawson, a member of The Golden Gamblers team. “I just like having a good time, so I just wanted to come down and have fun and enjoy the festivities.”
After the first round of trials, four carts moved on to the winners bracket while the other four went to the losers bracket. Of those carts in the losers bracket, Bohemia Mining Owners Association (BMOA) and Lemati Enforcer were eliminated in just two races, a BMOA member suffering a minor injury on their final run.
As the trials progressed and the contestants began to get the hang of the new competition, unique strategies were unleashed in the race.
“I tried to get the best bearings I can get so I can have as little resistance as possible,” said DJ Wyrick, a member of The Bookminers team. “Plus being heavy with a light cart means that the cart will be technically faster than us, so we hope to use the weight to our advantage.”
The carts that tended to have the most success in the trials were the ones who were quickest while picking up the sacks and turning around.
Tommyknockers would pick up all three sacks at once to save time and even took to diving headfirst back into carts.
Whatever the strategy was, contestants agreed that the time put into making the cart was well worth it once the starting gun fired.
“We got two-inch steel angle irons, reclaimed cedar, steel axles, and about 100 hours into this cart,” Wyrick said. “I even made outfits for the competition, so I’m all in. It’s been a lot of fun.”
With the trials winding down and the bracket becoming clearer with each race, two carts stood out from the rest: D&D Mining Co. and Covered Bridge Brewing Group. The two teams employed the quickest and most efficient strategies of the first day of trials, as they were the only two undefeated carts heading into Sunday’s final.
Just based on the smiles, excitement and laughter from the crowd, it was evident that the first day of the Ore Carts racing tournament was a grand success.
The competitors returned on Sunday to crown a champion of the inaugural running.
As the excitement rolled over from a fun-filled Saturday, the best teams remained in the winners side of the bracket on Sunday with two teams still holding onto an undefeated record.
As the tournament inched near the final race, some confusion was spurred in one of the semi-final races with E Clampus Vitus confusing when to start, either on the sound of the gun or with someone saying ‘Go,’ which allowed the Covered Bridge Brewing team to get the initial win.
After some conversation among the official cart race rule committee it was decided to have a rerun of the semi-final between E Clampus Vitus and Covered Bridge Brewing teams.
While Covered Bridge Brewing Group still advanced to the final after the rerun, all parties involved wanted to make certain of the integrity of the competition and allow the proper teams to advance fairly.
Subsequently, the bracket was examined as the final race approached with team D&D Mining still holding an undefeated record throughout the whole weekend.
Team Covered Bridge Brewing had sustained one loss and needed to win the next two races to proclaim the title.
After a close championship race, team D&D Mining held on to their perfect record all the way and ran the table to the final, crowned the champions of the inaugural Ore Cart races during Bohemia Mining Days.
A member of the D&D Mining told The Sentinel after the race, “Well, it’s what we set out to do and we accomplished our goals by winning and it feels good [going undefeated].”
The double elimination caused confusion at times but was the most fun and fair option giving teams a chance to bounce back and advance after suffering one loss.
At the awards ceremony, the top three winners were bestowed with mining trophies and plaques which will be displayed in the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum until next year when the titles will be challenged again.
D&D Mining received the first-place pickaxe trophy and $100 in Sacajawea coins, which the team donated back to the BMD organization to help maintain the ore cart races as a feature of the festival.
Covered Bridge Brewing Group came in second with the mining pan trophy and $75 in coins.
Lastly, E Clampus Vitus received the third-place sharpened shovel trophy and donated their $50 winnings to the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum.
All top winners received mining claims as well.
With a less than typical amount of planning due to the COVID-19 pandemic for this inaugural competition, there were moments that felt impromptu.
Looking forward to this event next year, volunteers are optimistic about the growth of these races, and are eager to make this fun and engaging event a staple in future Bohemia Mining Days.
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