Elliot and Giana Storey winning the 2016 North American Wife Carrying Championship ahead of Richard Cannon and Annie Leslie. Courtesy photo from Sunday River Resort

NEWRY — The tradition of wife carrying lives on in western Maine this fall with two ways to enjoy the sport. Sunday River Resort will host its 21st annual North American Wife Carrying Championship, with some modifications, at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 9, and the new “Couples of Wife Carrying” mockumentary film will make its theatrical debut the same weekend at Bethel’s Gem Theater.

The North American Wife Carrying Championship, which is held each year during the resort’s fall celebration on Columbus Day weekend, tasks couples with traversing a 278-yard obstacle course with one member of the team carrying the other. Obstacles on the course include a log hurdle, the widow-maker water hazard and a sand hill. The couple to complete the course with the fastest time receives the wife’s weight in beer, five times her weight in cash and entry into the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland the following summer.

With health and safety in mind, the resort has made a number of adjustments to the event. First, the event will be held on Friday, Oct. 9, instead of Saturday, Oct. 10. Spectators will be limited and are not allowed in the center of the course as in years past. Masks are required at all times, except when competitors are completing their timed run. Couples will race against the clock, rather than head-to-head. The couple with the fastest time overall will be named the champion; there will be no head-to-head heat for the finals.

Registration for the North American Wife Carrying Championship is available in a limited capacity. Couples must be over the age of 21, but do not need to be legally married or comprised of a man and woman.

The weekend is also bolstered by the theatrical premiere of “Couples of Wife Carrying,” a feature-length satirical comedy that was filmed at the resort in 2017. There will be showings of the film on Friday, Oct. 9, and on Saturday, Oct. 10, limited to 50 people each, at the Gem Theater in Bethel.

The North American Wife Carrying Championship was founded in 1999 at Sunday River Resort and has been held annually in mid-October at the resort ever since. The championship holds registration spots open for winners of any sanctioned state, provincial or regional wife carrying events, and provides entry to the competitors at no cost, then opens any remaining spots for public registration.

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