Friday, 27 May 2022

Clearlake's annual worm races return in July

CLEARLAKE Somewhere around l968, Charles Schoenberger, then owner of Ford’s Department store at Austin Beach in Clearlake, decided that if Mark Twain could get frogs to jump in competition in Calaveras County, we could get worms to race here in Lake County.


The first International Worm Races were held that year. Charles was right. Not only did worms race, but the first year’s event held over three days generated more than 1,000 entries.


Now held on the Saturday of the Lyon’s Club Fourth of July Parade and the Clearlake Chamber of Commerce Firework’s display, the races continue.


Through the years, some winning competitors were dug up in distant back yards and vegetable gardens, others were flown in from far away places, but local night crawlers have proven to be the most dependable.


Past winners who inched their way across the finish line ahead of their competitors included such greats as Lightning Harry, Fred, Heliatrophy, Master Gee and Slimey. One year, 8-year-old Eddy Sears not only won first prize with his worm Buddy, but claimed third and fourth place as well. The most recent finalists were simply named Wormie and Squirmie.


People have come from around the world to compete, and from many walks of life, including senators and congressmen.


In l980, NBC had television cameras from the show “Real People” to film the races. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper and a crew from “Animal Planet” were on hand when Eddy Sears set his record. More recently CBS and “Bay Area Back Roads” joined in the fun. One of their reporters got so caught up in the competition that he made it to the finals, placing second.


Eddy Sears and Buddy have since gone into retirement, leaving the field wide open for anyone to claim the prize. All ages are welcome to try. It’s easy to win. In fact, it’s so easy that last year’s winner was 2-year-old, Anthony Bradley. This year, who knows? Perhaps it’s time for an adult to claim top honors.


Last year's event held a special surprise for the competitors. Perrie Bassham, our first ever International Worms race winner, came back to pay us a visit. She and her dad, Paul Bassham, had spent a Father/daughter day on Clearlake. When they docked their boat, empty-handed, they saw all the excitement around the Worm Races. With a night crawler taken from the same can of worms they had been using to fish with, Perrie Bassham went all the way and won top prize – a brand new fishing pole and reel.


This year's winners in the four age categories – 0 to 5 years; 6 to 10 years; 11 to 17 years, and 18 years and over – will vie for cash prizes and trophies.


So what are you waiting for? If Anthony Bradley, Perrie Bassham and Eddy Sears can win it all, so can you. Worm-master Bill Edmunds and other Clearlake Chamber of Commerce members will be there to cheer you on to victory. You might even see yourself on TV.


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