The Press Newspaper
For most of the teams that compete in the Waiter’s Race at the Birmingham Ethnic Festival, it’s
all about simply running fast and trying not to spill too much beer in the process.
But for Joe Sparks, there’s more to it than that. That’s why he’s been a member of the winning team for six years running.
“Learning how to balance the tray is where the skill comes in,” Sparks said. “You have to be really steady and light on your feet.”
The Waiter’s Race is one of the more popular events at the Ethnic Festival, which was held on Consaul Street in the Birmingham district for the 36th year. The race, which was first held in 1996, usually kicks off the festival on Saturday night, but this year it followed a celebrity eating contest.
“Each year the crowd gets larger and larger,” Sparks said. “People are lined up on both sides of the street. They had about 1,000 people show up this year.”
The race consists of usually six to eight four-man relay teams. The Hungarian Club is a consistent competitor along with teams from Tony Packo’s, the Iron Workers, the VFW, the Rumpus Room, and the Steel Workers.
“Each team starts from Tony Packo’s all the way to the VFW and back,” Sparks said. “Each person has a bar tray and on the tray there is a pitcher of beer and two full glasses of beer. You start at Tony Packo’s and exchange with the other runners on a four-man relay.
“When a person comes in, you have to fill both glasses up to the top. If it spills, you have to fill it back up. There are judges at each exchange. Each person runs their part, a quarter of the distance to the next exchange point.”
Sparks said the Ethnic Festival Waiter’s Race was modeled after a long standing European tradition.
The scoring is based on how much beer each team has left in their pitchers and beer glasses.
The Hungarian Club was this year’s overall winner, and Tony Packo’s and the Iron Workers tied for second.
Sparks, who was born in the Birmingham district and now lives in Perrysburg, was joined on the Hungarian Club team by Tim Whitney of Petersburg, Mich., Tom Fridrick of Toledo and Tony Szilagye of Rossford.
The Hungarian Club has won the Waiter’s Race six years in a row, tying the Rumpus Room for all-time wins.
“Tony and I practiced once for 15 minutes, and Tim and Tom practiced about the same amount of time about a week before the race,” said Sparks, who is a Hungarian Club committee member. “Because of our schedules, we didn’t all practice together. Tony and I have been on the same team for all six years. Tim has been on the team for five years and Tom for four years.”
Sparks is an expert in running, so he ran the anchor leg on the relay - barefooted. He has taught the Pose Method of running since 2002 and invented the EZ Run Belt, which teaches the skill of running properly.
“I put all the pressure on myself to be the anchor,” he said. “I teach people how to prevent themselves from over striding and using proper running mechanics, so I’m a good guy to be on the team. These guys knew how to run, but I tweaked their form - short, tiny steps so the tray doesn’t bounce.”
Sparks said he wanted to compete in the relay for the Hungarian Club in order to honor his Hungarian heritage and “reclaim my roots.” He is adopted, but both of his birth parents are Hungarian.
“I wanted to do something that was fun and something I knew I was good at,” said Sparks, 54, whose Hungarian birth name is Barocsi. “The guys on this team are my friends and we like to run.
“We’ve competed in races and triathlons. We were probably the oldest team, running against guys half our age.”
He added that it was a “thrill” to win the Waiter’s Race and have the Hungarian Club’s name etched on the trophy for the sixth straight year.
“The trophy is a big keg of beer plastered with all the different clubs that have won,” he said. “Here’s our name on it the last five years and now we get to put ‘2010’ on there. If we win (again) next year — no one has won seven times. The Rumpus Room has won six times and so have we, so next year we can be the winningest team. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a way to connect with other people. And, we love the competition.”
Public officials and community leaders joined Penn National Gaming, Inc. Thursday for the groundbreaking of the $250 million Hollywood Casino-Toledo to open in the first half of 2012.
Local news anchor Jerry Anderson, who emceed the ceremony, called the event a “historic and wonderful occasion for Toledo, Rossford, Wood County, and the region.”
“There are those watershed moments that change a community and its landscape physically, and I think we are at one of those moments,” Anderson said.
The broadcaster then began introducing a wide range of local and state public officials. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was first in line.
“In our city, a lot of people here underestimate what we can do,” Bell said. “It’s very easy for people to be critical of good things. I found out as mayor we have to change the culture of how we do things here. I think we can do that.
“What we have to do is bring it together, because if we don’t fix the ship here we are all going to sink. Penn National has given us a lifeboat here,” Bell continued.
Members of a panel studying the feasibility of a joint police district to service the villages of Genoa and Clay Center and Allen and Clay townships have decided to disband until state lawmakers take action on a bill that would allow the formation of such a district.
John Hoeft, a Clay Township trustee who chairs the Joint Law Enforcement District Feasibility Commission, said the commission’s goals have been met and it will now wait to see if the legislature passes what is called “enabling legislation” that would allow townships and municipalities to form one district for police coverage.
Currently, the Ohio Revised Code doesn’t allow townships and municipalities to jointly form a police district.
“The Joint Law Enforcement District Commission believes it has met the objectives that were its founding purpose,” a commission report says. “After a thorough and complete study, the Commission believes that a joint law enforcement district is feasible and would be cost effective. However, without legislation that allows further development of the JLED, there is little the Commission can do.”
One Call Now, an emergency notification system that the city contracted with last spring, has been annoying some residents with repeated calls.
Mayor Mike Seferian and some members of council have received several calls from residents complaining about the service, which allows the city to notify the public of emergencies or events.
“I was getting a lot of calls,” said Seferian at a council meeting last month. Council members Jerry Peach, Sandy Bihn and Terry Reeves also received several calls from irate residents about repeated calls from the service.
Seferian said he called Mike Scott, of One Call Now, repeatedly to try and get the system fixed.
“He was out of town, and his voice box was full. I think after 67 tries, he realized I’m pretty good at re-dialing. He did call me back then. I told him to get that thing shut off in the next 15 minutes, or we won’t have this program anymore. He said he couldn’t because he was out of town. I said, `You ought to be able to find someone to hit this thing with an axe or something, but shut it off.”’
Someone was finally able to disarm the system.
The ink was barely dry on the contract authorizing the demolition of the Lake Township administration building before it was razed.
Crews from Cousino-Harris Co., Perrysburg, tore down the building Wednesday morning after the township trustees approved a contract the day before for the demolition.
The building, located near the intersection of Cummings Road and State Route 795, had been destroyed by the June 5 tornado.
The township’s insurance carrier is to cover the cost of the project set at $36,064, according to Tom Hays, township solicitor.
The trustees also contracted with Cousino-Harris to construct a new restroom facility at Friendship Park for $52,486. The contract includes the cost of demolishing the old restroom, which was also damaged by the tornado.
Costs will be covered by the township’s insurance.
The trustees have set Aug. 24 as the deadline for accepting statements of interest from architectural and engineering firms for designing a new administration building.
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