ITHACA, N.Y. – Competitors from a whopping 25 countries, real and imagined, competed at the 21st Annual Rutabaga Curl at the Ithaca Farmers Market Saturday. Just under a hundred athletes hurled the gnarly root vegetable down the hay-lined alley toward the orange safety cone target, in addition to the 15 tots who took part in morning’s Turnip Toss. In a hotly contested final round, Ithacan Amy Aittama, representing Finland, eked out a victory over Janston Pickle and crowd favorite The Notorious Rutabaga Ginsburg. A mere five inches separated the top three finishers.
Aittama, a first time rutabaga curler, said it was a thrill to take the top prize in her first tournament. “I was able to endure the competition,” she said after the grueling final heat at the end of the nearly two hour match. Aittama’s victory came as a surprise not only due to her inexperience but also due to her unconventional rutabaga carving technique: she hurled an oblong root with a pronounced knob at the end, far from the spherical norm. She said she’ll be freezing the winning vegetable to reuse next year.
Elisha Osherowitz, alias Notorious Rutabaga Ginsburg, took home the bronze but won the audience’s heart. A chant of “root, root, root” erupted as she approached the tossing line in the final round. RBG said of her first appearance on the international vegetable curling circuit, “I did it for the people.” In response to public concerns about how much longer she could stay on the circuit, Notorious RBG said, “I’m resilient, I will not go down.”
The 95 competitors who finished shy of the podium nevertheless had moments of brilliance. Several hit the cone straight-on, forcing the referee crew to reposition the target repeatedly. The 98th and final competitor of the tournament’s first round, Ruby Bruiseday, landed a ‘baga just next to the cone to cinch a spot in the finals at the last possible moment. A competitor from Florida threw a wrench in results tracking by launching a root up and over the hay barricade, but luckily seasoned referees were able to resolve the issue.
Emcee Jeff Luoma kept the rowdy crowd informed of every twist and turn throughout the action, imbuing with the event with the gravitas the athletes deserved. But while Luoma emphasized competitors’ years of disciplined training, the relatively green winners embodied the tournament’s unofficial motto. “All you need is a rutabaga and a dream.”
Six Circles Farm provided rutabagas in spades, and Stick and Stone grew the turnips for the toss.