The weather for sista april this year was nearly ideal; warm, but not so sunny as to make it too hot. We got downtown at about 09.00, in plenty of time for the 10.00 start of Forsränningen. Plenty of time before the start, yes, but there really wasn't much time to spare. The banks of the river were already covered solidly with people, but we still managed to get a spot with a great view, in the middle of the St. Olofsgatan bridge. Around 10.00 a large rubber raft came down the river, hovered in the middle of the Fyrisån for a few minutes, then set off a large firework, and the race was on!
Well, calling this a "race" is perhaps not quite accurate. "More like a competitive parade," said Joe, and the point of it was not so much to get to the finish line in the best time, but to get to the finish line in one piece. Rafters were allowed to attack each other (and each other's rafts) with soft projectiles (water balloons and bits of baguettes were the most popular ordinance). Every raft had a theme, so they were rather more like literal floats, and several entrants had little skits prepared that they performed as they bobbed along. Furthermore, begging for food and beverages from the crowd was common, and onlookers tossed them strawberries and sandwiches and cans of beer. So progress down the river was, shall we say, somewhat leisurely. Our vantage point was only a couple hundred meters from the start line, so most rafts were still in decent shape when they got to us, although we did see a couple of them disintegrate, or flip and fling their riders into the water, which was rapidly becoming polluted with champagne corks, exploded water balloons, pieces of bread, and pieces of foam from the rafts (you can see all the stuff in the water in the photo above).
Should any particular raft survive the upstream encounters with other rafts, it then had to navigate a short falls a little further downstream (and there was yet another further on). Failure seemed to be more common than success, which kept the rescue swimmers busy with pulling people aside and out of the main current. Helmets of some kind (bike helmets and bandy helmets were common) and floatation vests were mandatory equipment, so I don't think anyone was really in much danger, but it is probably a good idea to have the rescuers on hand, especially since the mental facilities of the some rafters might have been slightly impaired.
The drinking had started well before the race, at least among the onlookers. For the most part, this just meant that people were perhaps louder in their cheering than they might otherwise have been. The only bit of "bad behavior" that either of us witnessed that morning was that one girl was spotted in the custody of the police, wobbling around as they tried to stuff her into a waiting car that then whisked her away.
Drinking alcohol was a major part of the day (heck, it was a major part of the morning!), but this part of the day was by no means dominated by young adults. Really, the whole thing was more than a little reminiscent of the Blossom Parade, with the very young and somewhat elderly all present to see the fun. And what parade is complete without vendors selling German almonds and coffee and hot dogs and mylar balloons? We had those too. Balloons were very popular—pink unicorns were popular with young and old, and even the Goth kids by the river were flying an Eeyore balloon as they drank their champagne and ate strawberries.
We took a a fair number of pictures, so if you want to see more, click on the gallery link by the title (mousing over the thumbnails gives a caption for many). Highlights include an igloo and polar bear threatened by Big Oil (seen at left), a carrot serving drinks and dinner to two asparagus stalks, Heroes attacking a hot dog, and a meat-eating cow. Oh, and we even got a picture of the drunk girl getting nobbled by the police.
Next on the day's hectic schedule—Champagnegallopp! Or, to give its more informal name, Bubbelgalopp...