Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Mascot Race Day at the Mitcham Fair

The real winners - the staff and volunteers of 'Home Start Merton'
Well after weeks of hurdle and jump making; of painting and emailing; of fund-raising and mascot-chasing; of creating 'to do' lists and listing items not to forget on the day ... everything finally came to a head on Saturday at the Mitcham Jubilee Carnival!

Pudsey with his trophy and Bumper the Mouse,
who sadly arrived just too late for the race
I arrived early-ish  at the carnival ground with a people-carrier full of equipment and breezed in with no problems whatsoever, being  guided over to the arena area to unloaded. Having left the bulky stuff for later I had to return for the more valuable and delicate items, such as a number of mascot outfits, framed certificates, cups and other assorted items, including the rest of the family who had been press-ganged into either running in the race, filming, taking stills or helping to lay out the course (or all of the above).

Arriving to unload the mascot costumes provided the first change of plan as the large marquee next to the arena should have been half restaurant, half changing room. Sadly the non-arrival of the dividers meant it was all restaurant so we had nowhere to change! There was a bit of embarrassment all round but then the commons changing rooms were opened up and we at last had our space. Or at least we did after the lady stilt-walkers were moved next door.

KNK Kev awards his check to
Barbara of Home Start Merton
I hadn't had confirmations from some of the mascots, so not knowing exactly who was going to turn up was slightly nerve-tingling but they then started arriving one after the other, their presence usually heralded by a phone call  and a plaintive cry of 'Where on earth is it?' We had a couple of no-shows and one mascot whose 'I'm lost!' call came just as we were about to enter the arena, so we were a touch light on mascots, but not crucially so.

In fact it was the laying out of the course that was causing me most concern as we had a very limited time in the arena. Jumps had to be set out in the correct place and then pinned down to stop any gusts of wind playing havoc. Bunting needed to be positioned to give the poorly-sighted mascots a chance of seeing where they were supposed to be going, sponsors had boards that needed to be placed in sight and any horse poo from the jousting located and dealt with. (There was mercifully little)
A marvelously motley collection of individuals stepped into the breech like a Dad's Army of volunteers. Family were there of course but also a good friend with her long-suffering partner (a man I have yet to meet outside the context of being press-ganged into helping me with a community event). A work colleague happened to be in the area with his daughter, so we grabbed them. Two of the sponsors had come to see the race and found themselves - suits and all - helping out with hammers and jumps. Probably not quite the experience they expected their donation to provide them with. We also had a couple of AFC Wimbledon supporters also stepping up to the plate - and much appreciated they were too!

Then just before we went in I was told that everything was a little late so we might not have all the time initially allotted! Ha! Nice try! Once we were underway they had no chance of getting rid of us until we were through. Even less chance than that as it turned out as Haydon started stealing the show and couldn't be persuaded to leave, joining in with the dancers that followed us!

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Debra the Zebra overtakes Bully with a flying leap!
Having run around trying to knock in various slalom boards I found myself puffing heavily and  having to go straight into the introductions. With no time to catch either thought or breath we were off, which is why I'm still panting in the video! As we had some slower mascots I had decided to experiment with a grid start but before we started I still had to introduce the mascots to the crowd, who they represented and who had sponsored them. (Incidentally, going down the corporate sponsorship route had been thrust upon us almost at the last moment but I think it worked pretty well on the whole and I'm looking forward to developing the idea a little more. Taking the onus off of individual donors in these difficult time strikes me as a positive thing to do and I'm sure we can develop it further.)

Finally the intros were over, the flag was raised, then dropped... and we were off!

With only time for a single lap it all flashed by rather quickly with Haydon taking an early lead, only to be caught by Pudsey on the last bend and then Sam the Dog on the finishing line. Then the splendid cup was presented to Pudsey and we had a few minutes to clear the course again! Of course it's much easier taking it down than putting it up, so that wasn't so bad.

I was able to present all the runners with a framed certificate to commemorate their achievement and Bully even put his on his facebook page along with some really nice photos, so I guess he was happy with that.

KNK Kev also had a date with the volunteers on the Home Start Merton stall as he proudly presented them with their cheque for £250!

All in all I think it went pretty well. We met some new people, raised some money for a worthy charity, tried out the new jumps helped out with Merton's Jubilee celebrations, engaged with the local community and had ourselves a good (if hectic) time!

Bully the Bull's Certificate. Well done Bully!
 Now's we can start preparing for September 9th's running of the WUP Cup on home turf when we visit the Wimbledon Common Stables Open Day event!

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