September 27, 2022

GARDNER — The 17th annual Oktoberfest “Party In The Street” hosted by the Gardner Ale House and organized by the Gardner Festival Committee rolls through the city to bring family friendly fun and the competitive spirt this tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 24. 
The celebration starts with a beer keg tapping in front of the Ale House at 11:30 a.m. followed by the notorious 14th annual chair luge race at 2 p.m. The first place chair luge winner will get a prize of $200.
This year the theme of the race is superheroes with a cash prize of $200 for the team with the best hero costume. 
“We introduced the chair luge race three years after the first Oktoberfest and the crowds doubled,” Gardner festival committee chair, Rick Walton, said. “The luge blew everything up but then COVID-19 hit and we haven’t had one in three years. We are doubling our efforts this year to continue the fun.” 
Walton, who is also the owner of the Gardner Ale House and Moon Hill Brewery, said there are seven confirmed chair luge teams as of last week. 
Tina Gemborgs, owner of Hometown Barber shop, and the newest addition to the shop, Brooke Jwanik, make up one of the seven chair luger teams. 
“Originally it was one of our customers, they had a chair and wanted us to sponsor the chair,” Gemborgs said. “But this year Rick came to hold our hands and to pull us back into the race.”
The Hometown Barber shop team did not build their own luge chair. Walton connected the team to local welder Joe Albert, who has built eight different luges in the past 13 years the chair luge races occurred. According to Walton, Albert has been the chair luge builder who won the most races.
“Joe has made probably eight luges. He’s a welder and does all kinds of things,” Walton said. “His luges have won the most races. He probably has about four or five luges in this year’s race and Hometown Barber’s luge was built by Joe Albert.”
Walton said the Gardner Festival Committee has purchased all of Albert’s luges this year for racers to use free of charge. 
“Teams are encouraged to build their own luges because it’s part of the fun but not everybody knows how to weld,” Walton said. 
Gemborgs said they haven’t decided who is going to be the pusher or the driver yet but they know they will have lots of fun. The team has decided to dress up as their favorite women of rock. 
The barber shop team has done the chair race three times but has yet to win first place. 
“The first time we won third place, then after that it was fourth place but we are getting close,” Gemborgs said. “We are going to have a lot of fun and we are just going to enjoy it.”
The Hometown Barber shop team said if they win the race they plan donating the cash prize to the community. 
“I think more than anything this is a way for us to be out in the community because people don’t see us outside of the shop,” Gemborgs said. “We are just going to enjoy being with the community.”
Donovan Deal, an engineer, decided to make his own luge after seeing the first chair luge race in 2009 and since then he has participated in every chair luge race. 
“The very first year I made a chair that didn’t have any steering but it did have brakes,” Deal said. “It did good the first run but the second run it wiped out.”
About a couple weeks ago Deal called his friend Keith DiMuccio, an industrial designer, to ask him if he wanted to be his partner in the race. DiMuccio said he didn’t have much time to build a luge but he did help Deal as much as he could and he will be the pusher at the race.
“I had always wanted to do the luge but I never had the time to build something,” DiMuccio said. “I’m an industrial designer so if I’m going to build something, I’m going to build something.”
Deal and DiMuccio’s current luge chair is made up from different parts of Deal’s previous luge chairs and strap metal. In total the materials cost $300 and it took the team about 20 to 30 hours to build. 
Both Deal and DiMuccio said they don’t expect to win but they know they will have a lot of fun riding their luge down the 200 yard incline. 
“This chair is the fastest one I have and I have some high hopes for it,” Deal said. “We are in it to win it but we don’t expect to.”
Both teammates said if they do win first place they plan on using the money to invest in crypto. 

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