Bertie's Inn fights Multiple sclerosis — with belt sanders

Photos by Ambre Juryea-Amole Joan Stevens (on left) and Ryan Hesson (on right).
Photos by Ambre Juryea-Amole Anita Auge, on left, and Amber Schubert, on right, race to the finish line. Amber Schubert won first place overall this year.

Bertie’s Inn raised over $7,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on July 12 at their 24th annual Belt-Sander Race.

Bertie’s Inn owners Ann and Peter Thomas hold the event every year as their way of giving back to the community. Peter Thomas said, “When we first bought [Bertie’s Inn], we knew a piece of the pie was going to go to a charity. We didn’t know which one. The MS Society was the first to knock on our door because they had an ugly bartender contest going on at the time, and it was a good fit.”

Bertie’s Inn held the ugly bartender contest once and raised a small amount of money for Multiple Sclerosis. The following year, a bar patron helped the Thomas’ come up with a more original idea.

“A customer of ours who was in the woodworking business would go to trade shows over the winter. Out of boredom they would sit on their belt sanders and ride them around. One afternoon we were looking for ideas, and [the bar patron] blurted out that we should have a belt sander race,” Thomas explained.

The first year Bertie’s Inn held a belt-sander race, they raised significantly more money for Multiple Sclerosis than they had raised with the ugly bartender contest. So, the Thomas’ decided to stick with the idea.

The rules are simple. Racers have to stay in their lane and inside the track, and at least one racer’s belt sander has to cross the finish line. Racers also have to be at least 21 years old, and they have to sign a waiver to be able to race. Teams, which are mostly organized by local businesses, must pay a $50 entry fee to join in on the fun. However, most teams are able to raise much more than the $50 entry fee.

Staying in the lane and on the track is certainly easier said than done. Racers spend about a half an hour before the race begins to practice. The practice runs are highly entertaining, and the track was already lined with people hoping to get a glimpse of the action.

Even after practicing, many riders still have trouble staying on the belt sander and inside the track. Though, the Thomas’ were happy to report that there have been no injuries to date besides a few scratches and bruises.

The annual Bertie’s Inn Belt-Sander Race has now raised over $300,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in its 24 years of existence. This year, the 32 teams participating in the event raised $4,627. An additional $2,000-$3,000 was also raised through the $1.00 entry fees the 700 people in attendance paid, t-shirt and raffle ticket sales, and additional revenue from food and non-alcoholic beverage sales.

Barflies had the added convenience this year of being able to watch the races from the comfort of the bar area located on the deck. William Thomas, son of Ann and Peter Thomas, added some technological advances to the event by setting up cameras to broadcast the races on closed-circuit televisions located behind the bar. The cameras also recorded the event, and the full videos will be available on the Bertie’s Inn website this week.

To watch the videos or to participate in the 2015 belt-sander race, visit www.bertiesinn.com.

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