By Derek Johnson – Special to the Alpine Mountaineer
August 4 and 5 marked the community of Running Springs’ annual “Mountain Top Days” Festival, with a parade on Friday and a fair/farmers market on Saturday. The theme of this year’s Mountain Top Days was “The Neighbor Factor” with the tagline “We Survived Snowmageddon.”
Scott Richardson, dressed as Uncle Sam, led the parade on Friday at 6 p.m., riding his circa 1880s penny-farthing bicycle. Other local staples appearing in the parade included Mountain Fifes and Drums with their authentic snapshot of American revolutionary history and Smokey Bear in a vintage Forest Service car, in addition to the many other sponsors with their floats and costumes. Sheriff’s Captain Don Lupear was the grand marshal, waving from the passenger seat of a late 40s model Packard Deluxe.
On Saturday the 5th, a variety of activities kept kids and adults entertained. The “Highland Pickers” played folksy versions of various classic American tunes on acoustic instruments, and the Running Springs Area Chamber of Commerce had their backpack giveaway in preparation for school. Kids were given a free backpack loaded with school supplies – notebooks, pencils, crayons, markers, etc. – all provided to help our local youth get off to a good start this academic year. Dozens of these loaded backpacks were handed out to children of all ages.
At 11 a.m. came the much anticipated first responder bucket-brigade race. In this competition, a five-person team passes buckets down the line, emptying a 107-gallon tub into another tub a short distance away. A ping pong ball floats in a vertical pipe inside the tub; when the tub is eventually filled, the ball is forced out of the pipe onto the ground next to the tub, at which point the time is marked. Speed, smoothness of technique and consistency seem to be the keys to victory in this sport.
This year, it was a one-on-one battle between two of the local revered fire departments: Running Springs vs. Arrowbear. Last year, Arrowbear broke Running Springs’ nearly decade-long winning streak to take home the trophy, and Running Springs was keen to take it back.
After a short warmup by each team, the reigning champs, Arrowbear, took their positions. It appeared they were forced to field one civilian substitute due to an apparent shortage of uniformed personnel. At the starting call, Arrowbear was looking smooth. However, at one point a bucket was dropped, temporarily interrupting their flow. The bucket was soon recovered, and things continued without the appearance of a serious deleterious effect on their time. Arrowbear finished filling the tub in two minutes, forty-five seconds.
Next, taking the field was a clearly eager and enthusiastic Running Springs team. Without warning, “The Eye of the Tiger” began blaring from a speaker brought by the department, and all in attendance knew that they were about to witness a Rocky-esque display of pure willpower and athleticism.
Notably, Running Springs used some strategies that were highly unorthodox. For example, they fielded their big man in the number three position – right in the middle of the line, instead of anchoring the team from the more standard number five position like Arrowbear. Additionally, they only put four buckets in play – one fewer than their rivals. While most bucket-brigade experts would say “one bucket per brigadier” is the only way to go, Running Springs went in with the idea that they would be able to fill the buckets more completely with the extra split-second between fillings. This was confirmed to be a deliberate strategy in the postgame interview. The unorthodox strategies paid off in the end – Running Springs finished at two minutes, thirty-seven seconds – eight seconds ahead of their rival, winning back the coveted trophy.
Following the bucket-brigade race was an egg toss (also won by Running Springs firefighters) and a watermelon eating contest enjoyed by all participants.
When asked for a comment on their bucket-brigade victory, Running Springs firefighter Cole said only this: “Adversity creates strong firefighters.” It is unknown what specific adversity that Cole was referring to that gave them the advantage over Arrowbear – perhaps it shall remain a mystery for the ages. Still, Cole’s wisdom rings true.
We know from experience that adversity builds strength – the theme of Mountain Top Days alluded to this aphorism. This year’s snowstorm absolutely strengthened our communities, and it was indeed “The Neighbor Factor” that helped us “Survive Snowmageddon.”