Melon Fest's Recliner Race just the thing for armchair athletes

MILAN Curious things happened Saturday in downtown Milan. Recliners -- usually statio
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Curious things happened Saturday in downtown Milan.

Recliners -- usually stationary and inert -- sailed down Main Street at a furious clip, sending the people sitting on them bouncing around in all directions.

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Furniture is meant for relaxation, not racing.

But that's why the Milan Melon Festival's Recliner Race is so popular: It is strange and unpredictable to watch living room furniture move at an impressive clip.

"We came just for this," said Steve Zadiraka, 45, of Amherst.

Outfitted with wagon wheels, a steering wheel and metal push rods, the two race recliners were pushed by two-people teams.

A third person sat in the seat, serving as the couch potato/driver. About 10 teams competed for furniture-race glory.

At a glance, it was clear to Zadiraka the recliners weren't very sturdy.

He joked it was fitting a bloodmobile sat near the half-way point on the track -- a sinister turn marked by orange traffic cones.

He correctly predicted the race would be full of chaos and near tip-overs.

Not even 2 seconds into one race, one team crashed its recliner into the stage and became stuck.

Other teams pushed the chairs about 30 feet or so before they veered off course, nearly plowing into the sidelines full of spectators. The crowd loved it and wanted more.

"It's just like NASCAR -- everyone loves a wreck," Zadiraka said.

Peyton Michel was the only racer whose recliner fully toppled over.

Taking too sharp a turn, her teammates -- Jessica Tatem and Erica Reber -- couldn't keep the recliner upright, which sent the driver, Michel, tumbling to the ground.

The fall didn't faze the group of Milan girls. Michel sprang back up, hopped into the driver's seat and Tatem and Reber pushed her to the finish line.

They lost, but winning isn't everything: All three were laughing and grinning at the finishing line.

One team simply refused to lose and take seat in the crowd.

A team named The Sewage Swimmers -- composed of Milan 15-year-olds Tyler Majoy and Jordan Cole, and Corey Mancuso, 16, of Berlin Heights -- owned the race.

Professional furniture movers couldn't have bested their 25-second times.

Breathing hard with sweat dripping from his brow, Mancuso said they nearly flipped on the last turn of the final race, but somehow outmuscled the off-balance chair.

"We went fast that time," he said.

The boys said they looked forward to their prize -- free dinner, a cooler of soda, ride bracelets and other goodies.

But mostly it was the thrill of competition they enjoyed.

The curious competition continues tonight at the festival, when motor-mouths show off their stuff during the wing-eating contest.