This annual event is traditionally held on the last Saturday of the outdoor market in December.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Layer up and dig out those boot warmers– whether you love or hate the cold weather, the International Rutabaga Curling Championship is a can’t-miss event for locals and visitors alike.
Scheduled for the last outdoor Saturday Farmers Market of the year, the sport is the culmination of the season and, some might say, an emotional preparation for the winter to come. Open to all, competitors are split into two age groups– the junior “turnip toss” was introduced in recent years to keep kids from totally schooling adult competitors in the main rutabaga curling event.
Ithaca Farmers Market December Hours (Steamboat Landing Pavilion): Saturdays, 10am-2pm
Show up before noon to register, get your rutabaga, and have adequate time to carve it into your ideal shape. A few practice tosses are encouraged but not required. Finally, at high noon, registered competitors are split into heats and the festivities begin with the arrival of the torch and the parade of athletes. The sport itself is simple– contrary to traditional ice-based curling, athletes stay behind the start line and toss their numbered vegetable down a long chute, which opens into a bullseye target area. At the end of each heat, the vegetables closest to the center of the bulls-eye advance to the championship round.
HOW IT BEGAN
1998 was the first “official” International Rutabaga Curling Championship. However, as rumor has it, there were two years of secret sporting in 1996 and 1997, with vendors celebrating the end of the season by hurling their frozen wares down the market floor, tossing everything from potatoes to cinnamon rolls and cabbages to frozen chickens. Since then, the rules have been codified by commissioners, referees introduced to the games, and ceremonial traditions birthed– for example, the games now open with the arrival of the torch bearing the eternal rutabaga flame by a runner all the way from Mt. Cruciferous.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL
The official rutabaga choir and accompanying brass instrumentalists open the afternoon with a the Hallelujah Chorus… but with some slight modifications (interestingly, “Hallelujah” and “Rutabaga” have the same number of syllables). As the only (known) Rutabaga Curl in the world, this is truly an opportunity for amateur athletes to compete at a sport on an international level. The event has found its spot as a celebration of the season, with Ithaca mayor occasionally presiding and Cornell Ph.D candidates skipping their December graduation ceremonies to participate.
HOW TO PREPARE
Luke Jones, an international competitor hailing from the UK, made it to the pedestal in the 2016 Rutabaga Curling Championship and competed for the second time in 2017, earning a spot in the finals. “The Rutabaga Curl is the manifestation of all the things I love about Ithaca; a totally unique competition that is done every year out of fun, love, and happiness, he says. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Preparation is crucial. “Athletes must prepare by sending positive vibes to the Gods of Rutabagas. First-time spectators cannot possibly be prepared for this event.” No matter how you choose to prepare emotionally, make sure you bundle up for a comfortable experience.
Ready to participate? Check out registration info on the Rutabaga Curl Facebook event.
Hungry for rutabagas and other delicious winter roots? The Ithaca Farmers Market is open Saturdays, 10:30AM - 2PM in January through March at the indoor location at The Triphammer Marketplace.
Ithaca Farmer's Market December Hours: Saturdays, 10am-2pm. Photos by Allison Usavage, allisonusavage.com.