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Race Toward a Great Family Getaway in Maine

Camden is a destination that offers travelers the quintessential Coastal Maine experience. It’s one of the most popular vacation locations on the Maine Coast, and during peak vacation season the population of the town increases three-fold. Visitors to the town will encounter postcard-like views of Penobscot Bay, an unmatched collection of windjammers, and more activities than one vacation can handle.


The U.S. National Toboggan Championship has been a mainstay in the Camden community for over 25 years. This event is the ultimate toboggan racing experience, and event planners expect over 6,000 attendees. It will take place Feb. 10-12 at The Camden Snow Bowl, which is conveniently located just two miles west of downtown. Attendees will find a family-friendly experience complete with toboggan races, costume parade, souvenir marketplace, skiing, and more. The toboggan races include two-, three-, and four-person races, as well as an experimental division featuring custom built toboggans. Patrons will find activities around town such as a chili cook-off competition, live music, and more. got the chance to interview Holly S. Edwards, Chairman of the U.S. National Toboggan Championship Organizing Committee, to talk about this one-of-a-kind experience.


RAL: Tell me a bit about the event.

HE: The event began in 1991. The original toboggan chute at the Camden Snow Bowl was built in 1937, but it was in really bad shape by the early 1990s. Camden native name Jack Williams led a movement to rebuild the chute and to give people another reason to come to the Snow Bowl, besides the great skiing.


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

HE: For spectators, we estimate between 5,000 and 6,000 on our busiest day, which is Saturday.


RAL: What is the typical demographic makeup of the event?

HE: We have lots of families, but we also see many couples and even kids racing on their own against their parents. We get old friends who treat it like a reunion and college buddies that compete for their alma mater. We get groups of women who work at the same beauty salon (Shear Madness is their team name) and groups of men who work at the same boatyard (The Lymaneers).


RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.

HE: If you come on Saturday (our big day), make sure to arrive by 8:00 am to hear the national anthem sung by a local high school student. You might even hear some cannon fire. As you make your way into Tobogganville, you'll pass by teams of racers setting up their camps, drinking something warm, and waxing their toboggans.


Racing for the two-person and three-person teams continues at a solid pace all morning until noon when we break for lunch and the Costume Parade. Guest judges for the parade are the members of the Camden Select Board, and the parade is serenaded by the Planet Pan Steel Drum Band of Blue Hill. If you get cold, the Registration Shed is a place where you can warm up, but there will also be a big bonfire going all day. At the end of the day Saturday, you can enjoy the West Bay Rotary Club's Chili Challenge downtown, and then head over to the Downtown Dance with the band, Mid-Life Crisis.


On Thursday night before the event, CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band will be throwing down some zydeco music at the Camden Opera House. The weekend before, Toboggan Nationals kicks off Winterfest with nine days of outdoor and indoor fun, including ice sculpting, the Maine State Snow Sculpting Championship, the CamJam Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Competition at the Camden Snow Bowl, and more. Winterfest takes place from Feb. 4-11, and the Toboggan National is held on Feb. 10-12.


RAL: What dining options will patrons encounter?

HE: There will be vendors selling all kinds of food, including wood stove pizza, burgers and fries, hot dogs, fresh soup, and more. This year there will be a Sea Dog Brewing beer tent, with some of the profits going back to the event. If you walk by a tailgate group, don't be surprised if they offer you some of their venison stew or other specialties. Tobogganers are friendly people, so be sure to stop and chat with them for a minute or two.


RAL: What will attendees find for local lodging?

HE: Camden has a variety of lodging options, but don't forget that Rockport, Lincolnville, and Rockland are also great options and no more than a 10 or 15-minute drive. The Spouter Inn B&B in Lincolnville and the Bay View Collection in Camden are sponsors of the event, so I would be remiss in not mentioning them first.  The Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Camden Area Business Group are perfect resources for finding lodging options, and they are both sponsors of the event.


RAL: What does the event mean to the community?

HE: The Camden Snow Bowl is the country's only municipally-owned ski facility and year-round recreation facility. The town works with the Snow Bowl to create the budget and stay on track. The Toboggan Nationals are the largest fundraiser for the Snow Bowl, with all proceeds going directly into the general budget. We raise money to cover our expenses through the fees racers pay, sponsorships, vendor fees, parking fees, and sales of souvenirs. We do not charge for spectators to come and join the fun! Thanks to our recent partnership with Winterfest, their proceeds, through joint sponsorships and event ticket sales, now benefit the Snow Bowl as well.


RAL: Why should people come?

HE: The Toboggan Nationals are the perfect way to see Maine. Mainers are always friendly and accommodating, and that holds true year-round.  Yes, it's cold, but warmth is more appreciated when you have earned that chill at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships.

For more information about the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, please visit the event website.