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October 12, 2010 > Great Sunol Bed Race and Chili Cook-off

Great Sunol Bed Race and Chili Cook-off

By Julie Grabowski
Photos By Bill Nale

When a historic and quaint local church celebrates a landmark anniversary, one might expect a potluck, picnic, or special worship service. But for the Little Brown Church of Sunol, their 125th anniversary has them whipping out chili pots and taking their beds to the races.

On Sunday, October 17, the Great Sunol Bed Race and Chili Cook-off returns, and organizers couldn't be more enthused about reviving the traditional town event.
"It's just one of those fun, quirky, small town things," says Rev. Mary Conant of the Little Brown Church. "We think it's unique, it's funny, and it will be fun."

The only church in Sunol, Little Brown Church began its ministry in 1885 as a white building with the name Congregational Church of Sunol Glen. The wooden Victorian chapel was painted in 1954 and renamed after the popular song "The Little Brown Church in the Vale." Part of the United Church of Christ, the Little Brown Church serves to praise God, serve the community, and be a witness to the work of the Gospel with open arms to all.

When considering how to celebrate the church's anniversary with something that would really engage the town, bed racing was the first thing to come to mind. "Its part of our culture and heritage here," says Rev. Mary. Bed racing has been a sporadic but much loved tradition in the town, and it's been five or six years since beds have blazed down Sunol's Main Street. While there is confusion over the exact dates of the first races, they are thought to have started in the mid-80s and run for a few years, and then brought back by Save Our Sunol in the late 90s and lasted about three years. But whatever the length of time in between, you just can't keep the prospect of a good bed race down.

A section of Main Street is closed for the event and beds race the length of a city block. Five racers per bed form the team - four to push, and one brave soul to keep their sheets, pillows, and wits about them. Currently six groups are scheduled to race for first, second, and third place, as well as Best Decorated Bed. Beds are set to roll at noon.

The Chili Cook-off requires chefs to prepare three gallons of their special brews on site, vying for titles of Best Regular Chili, Best Vegetarian Chili, and People's Choice. Cooking begins at 9 a.m. and tickets go on sale at 11 a.m. For $5, attendees will receive a kit containing five two ounce sample cups, spoon, and ballot card to vote for their favorite chili. Tasting is open from noon to 3 p.m. followed by an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Celebrity judges presiding over the cook-off are postmistress Joan Hall, active town resident Ario Ysit, and retiring Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele. The three will award monetary prizes and a trophy in addition to all-important bragging rights.

Besides bed racing and chili booths, attendees can enjoy live music, beer and wine, soft drinks, hot dogs, and nachos as well as sweeter treats like brownies, cookies, cornmeal muffins, popcorn, and ice cream. Kids can saddle up and take a pony ride or bounce themselves silly in a bounce house run by the 6th grade class from Sunol Glen School. 7th and 8th graders will be selling food alongside Sunol Glen School Community Club, Sunol Business Guild, and Save Our Sunol. Funds raised from the event support the Little Brown Church and the various participating groups.

The Niles Canyon Railway will be offering service between Niles and Sunol on the day of the event, which provides a fun and relaxing addition to the day as well as eliminates potential parking hassles. Visit for schedules and ticket cost.

Don't miss the chance to cheer the running of the beds and sample the finest local chili at the one and only Great Sunol Bed Race and Chili Cook-off.

Admission and parking are free. For more information call (925) 862-2004 or visit

Great Sunol Bed Race and Chili Cook-off
Sunday, October 17
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunol Community Park
Main St. and Kilkare Rd., Sunol
(925) 862-2004

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