Home » Third Annual Bastille Day Waiter’s Race set to take place Saturday
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Third Annual Bastille Day Waiter’s Race set to take place Saturday

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If you love French culture or just simply enjoy watching people act silly, the streets of Midtown will be momentarily transformed to those of Paris for the Bastille Day Waiter’s Race on Saturday.

Dressed in traditional Parisian wait staff attire, 50 waiters and waitresses from local restaurants will speed walk twice around the block bounded by 18th and 19th Streets and L Street and Capitol Avenue while holding serving trays containing one bottle of Perrier and two drinking glasses three-fourths of the way full.

According to event organizer Rob Turner, once people get to the 1801 L St. courtyard, judges will check to see how much water has been spilled. Participants must make it to the finish line without spilling water or breaking a glass.

“Of course, it’s half the fun when people drop trays and glass goes shattering to the ground,” Turner said.

While a few broken glasses here or there may be unfortunate for those competing, the race, which is in its third year, has seen far more chaotic times.

“The first year, we didn’t have too many rules,” Turner said. “People were literally glueing their bottles or glasses to the tray or grabbing them and running. I think the whole race was over in 60 – 90 seconds because people just sprinted around the block once, and it was over. It was a little lawless and crazy.”

This year, the guidelines will be similar to last year’s race – there will be no running, only speed walking, and all trays, glasses and bottles will be provided by race organizers in order to eliminate cheating.

Also, according to Turner, spotters will be posted on street corners along the way keeping an eye out for unsportsmanlike conduct. They will also be watching for hand-switching as participants are not allowed to alternate tray hands during the race.

While the rules are mostly in line with last year’s, something unique this time around is the way the trays must be held.

“I usually hold my tray by grabbing the edge because it’s more stable for me,” returning participant and Ten22 employee Anthony Magdaleno said. “This year, your arm has to be under the tray completely balanced. I’ve been practicing holding my tray differently at work since we have to hold it in a way I’m not used to.”

As far as strategy, Magdaleno said he is counting on starting at the beginning of the line and then utilizing the corners, coming along the inside of people on turns and causing them to spill without any contact.

While there will be first-, second- and third-place awards of up to $150 for both waiters and waitresses, Magdaleno said he has an even larger incentive to win.

“Our owner is going to give whoever comes in first place out of the two employees from Ten22 and the two from The Firehouse $100,” he said. “So now it’s also kind of an inner restaurant competition.”

Since the race is during a Second Saturday Art Walk this year, both Magdaleno and Turner said they are looking forward to what they hope will be a larger turnout for an event that will animate the neighborhood.

“Our goal in the first place was to bring some life to the streets and energize Midtown,” Turner said. “I think these kinds of events really get people excited to be living in, working or visiting Midtown.” 

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