Pilot stories and photos
by Andrea Barkan
A pair of crazy eights dominated the 10th annual slug races at the Port of Brookings Harbor Sunday, as the eighth racer in both heats squared off in a battle for the grand championship that was as David and Goliath as they come.
After a grueling four-minute race, the mammoth leopard banana slug "Princess" proved that sometimes size really does matter as she crossed the finish line and cemented her title as this year's grand champ.
Her opponent, a young, slim rookie named "Thin Man," got hung up at the gate and just couldn't find his way out of the bag.
Both slugs were racing stock from a Winchuck River Valley slug ranch, owned by slug wranglers Deane McConnell and Laurie Calef.
The wranglers brought about 70 rental slugs to the races.
"We rent em, you race em," McConnell said.
The slug rental fee was $2 and proceeds went to the South Coast Humane Society. The event raised $76 for the animal shelter.
Princess's jockey was visitor Ashley Staples of Elk Grove, Calif. Staples was in Brookings visiting her grandparents, Martha and David Martin.
"I've never won anything before," the 15-year-old said.
Grand champion prize was $25 worth of ice cream at Slugs N Stones N Ice Cream Cones.
So what was her secret to success?
"It's in the name," Staples explained.
Indeed, McConnell and Calef, who acted as slug advisor and slug handler at the races, couldn't emphasize enough the importance of a good name to a racer's success.
Other entrants included Lickety Sticky, Lightning, Mercury, Titus, Spot, Slimy Sam and Bob.
Alli Ehrhardt, 10, and Casey Pearce, 10, both of Rogue River, chose a spotted rental slug and named it "Fluffy."
They said McConnell advised them to "keep it calm and talk to it."
Staples said she initially chose a different slug, but the slug handler gave her Princess instead.
"It was fate," Martha Martin said.