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Tradition celebrated with fun at Bear River’s 124th Cherry Carnival


Published on July 16, 2017

BEAR RIVER, NS – Bear River celebrated its 124 Cherry Carnival this year and with it its most famous, unique event: the greased pole.

Nearly 40 contestants aged 12 to 48 battled it out to get on the pole and make it the furthest they possibly can before tumbling into the water.

We serve the public and aren’t paid for it. We’re there when they need us. So to have everyone come out and support us like this today is just everything.

Nigel Gunn, Fire Prevention Officer

Think that sounds easy? Each year the pole is greased with lard. This year, Brinley Peck, chauffeured by Robert and Jacob Theriault, got the grease going, standing on a raft on the river to really grease it good.

Competitors from Bear River and places as far as Ontario entered the competition.

First-year festival announcers Cody and Greg Peck kept the crowd informed on who was up and who fell in.

“This is our first year doing this, and it’s pretty great,” said Cody.

“It’s great to be part of this event that supports and shows the love to our community like it does.”

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Brinley Peck greases the pole while Robert and Jacob Theriault paddle and keep watch.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Contestants don’t make it far until the grease wears off as the event continues – most barely made it to the first ribbon on their first attempts.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Into the water he goes!

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Contestants would give words of wisdom to those going after them. One word was “plug your nose.”

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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A running attempt at grabbing the flag. Each contestant had their own technique – some fast and some slow.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Trying to keep your balance on a greased pole is no joke.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Jess Tudor makes a graceful dismount.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Balance and nimble feet are key to this event.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Cody Banks on one of his first attempts to make it all the way, with an amused expression on his way down.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Another contestant takes a flying leap off the pole.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Contestants make it further and further as less grease is on the pole.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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“The pole always gets you in the end,” said announcer Greg Peck.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Event judges give the thumbs up to show a contestant has made it far enough on the pole and hasn’t grabbed it on their way down.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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The two event judges fix the flag after a little mishap.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Greased pole event organizer of many years Eddie Peck is on standby to help.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Cody Banks makes the winning dive and grabs the flag to win the event.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Greased pole event vet Eddie Peck presents winner Cody Banks with the $150 first place prize.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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The canoe races involved a men’s category, women’s and mixed teams.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Amy and Jess Tudor paddle in the canoe races’ mixed teams division.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

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Sisters Meagan Cole and Katie Barteaux with Cole’s son Max. The sisters competed in and won the women’s canoe races.

Photos by Sara Ericsson

The two said the age range isn’t at all surprising, and that it even varied more in years passed.

“We’ve had contestants in their eighties participate in this,” said Greg.

So much grease is used on the pole that some contestants, like David Novak, could barely climb up the river bank on their way out of the water.

“There’s so much grease on that thing!” he said.

This year’s oldest competitor was Mike Charlton, whose son also competed. Both put in a stiff effort but didn’t quite make it.

David Isles, who the announcers said has won the event eight and a half times, also gave it all, but narrowly missed out.

“The pole always gets you in the end it seems,” joked Greg Peck.

This year’s champion was Cody Banks, who leaped and grabbed the flag on his way down into the water.

He took home $150 and the pride of winning the festival’s staple event.

The festival was initially created as a celebration of remarkable cherry crops the village had, but now it stands to celebrate the village itself.

It’s also the largest fundraiser of the year for the Bear River Fire Department.

Fire Chief Darryl Jelfs, who’s been with the fire department for 28 years, said the festival is significant and means the world to the village.

“Our department is very community oriented. This event has always meant so much to us,” he said.

Along with the festival’s history, Jelfs attributes its success to the people it brings together.

“I think it's the fact that it’s an opportunity for everyone to come home who's left for work,” he said.

“It reunites old friendships and allows people to relive their youth,” he said.

Fellow department member Nigel Gunn, a fire prevention officer, has been involved for eight years.

He said the event is all about supporting one another.

“We serve the public and aren’t paid for it. We’re there when they need us. So to have everyone come out and support us like this today is just everything,” he said.