Summertime is synonymous with the season of races – be they of the running, biking, swimming, or paddling variety. The training for most races involves tying up those laces, dusting off the equipment, and putting in the training. What may not be a part of your typical race training basics is a bathtub; that is unless you are signing up for the Fillmore Days Bathtub Races. Now, before we dive into what goes into such a unique event, let’s talk about why such a race even exists.
This story begins in Moravia, NY. It’s a quaint town nestled on the southern end of Owasco Lake. Today, if you pass through town, you’ll notice its small-town charm, friendly residences, and the name Fillmore plastered all over the place. The Fillmore this town is honoring is the 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore. Fillmore was born just outside of town in Summer Hill. His presidency was most well known for the Compromise of 1850 - which is controversial today - but postponed the civil war by ten years. Fillmore was also the first president to put a library in the White House.
The problem is Fillmore was also given credit for bringing the bathtub to the White House when famous newspaper columnist H.L. Mencken published a column in 1917 about the history of the bathtub. In this article, he incorrectly gives credit to Millard Fillmore for bringing the bathtub to the White House and this information found its way into some history books. The bathtub debacle was quickly debunked but that didn’t stop residents from having fun!
A new tradition was born honoring the son of Moravia in a weekend full of fun named Fillmore Days. This celebration of historical items and new traditions would bring people local and afar together for food, parades, and of course bathtub races. When the tradition was in its heyday through the 1990’s, an unfortunate accident involving a tub and a bystander brought the beloved tradition to a screeching halt.
It took over 20 years and some very determined local supporters of the old tradition to bring back the hilariously entertaining races. Unlike the races decades ago that took place on the streets of Moravia, the new races take place on a bystander-safe course at Fillmore Glen State Park. The race has been back for two years since its resurrection and is welcomed by huge crowds and a lot more than just bathtubs.
The 2022 Fillmore Days events start on Thursday, August 11th with a trail run through the beautiful gorge at Fillmore Glen State Park at 6pm. By the time Friday rolls around the celebration kicks into full gear with food and beverage vendors as well as live music at the park starting at 6pm. Now, the event of all events takes place Saturday, August 13th with gates opening at 10am for the Bathtub Races! It’s a day of thrilling races, music, parades, shopping, food and drink, and prizes! Information on the races can be found at friendsoffillmoreglen.org.
There is still time to grab that old bathtub you may have sitting around and enter the race. There are multiple categories for tub races and specific safety features your tub must have to race. If you aren’t the racing type, there is much to feast your eyes on as some of the teams who race the tubs take this seriously and some not so seriously at all! If you have never seen the competition of bathtub races, you don’t know what you are missing.
So, a final thought for the fine folks of Moravia; if you want to keep with history and have fun, maybe you should be racing library books and not tubs, but would that be as fun?