On Saturday, Garrett Santiago and friends waited nervously on top of the First Street Bridge, ready to push a silver coffin on wheels down First Street.
“Where is the finish line?” the 17-year-old Vintage High School senior asked before he and his friends pushed young Alyssa Randel in the coffin down the street, to the cheers of hundreds lined up along First Street.
In the end, he and his teammates had no problem figuring the course as Krider Racing’s coffin won a series of sprints to win the second annual Napa Valley Coffin Races, an event organized by the Napa City Firefighters Association to raise money for local charities. In all, 14 teams competed for three trophies, sprinting along 530 feet along First Street, from the top of the First Street Bridge to west of Main Street.
“We gave it our best shot,” said Joanne Strickland, owner of Legends and Lore, a Napa gift shop, after her team lost a preliminary in a coffin decorated with a papier-mâché dragon with flapping golden wings.
Mike West of Napa watched the races with others, seated at an outdoor table at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ.
“They’re good,” West said of the races.
The Krider Racing coffin, which also took part in the event last fall, won Saturday’s event by beating Box on Wheels in 14.18 seconds.
“I was so happy,” said crew chief Rob Krider after the event, adding that he wants to be buried in the silver coffin he built a year ago for the 2012 event. “I”ll save a lot of money,” he added.
In 2012, the coffin’s wheels were wobbly and the team did not fare well. This year, however, Krider’s brother, Randy, fixed the problem. Rob Krider also recruited new runners, including Santiago and other members of Vintage High School’s cross-country and track teams. Krider, who is 40, and his team were thrilled to win Saturday’s first-place trophy.
He plans to return next year, he said. “We are definitely going to come back to defend the championship,” Krider said.
Charlie Rhodes, a fire captain, was inspired to organize Napa’s first coffin races last year to raise money for local charities after he watched the annual coffin races in Manitou Springs, Colo. Last year’s race raised about $7,000, including $5,000 for Napa’s literacy programs. Rhodes did not know Saturday how much money will be raised this year through donations and sponsorships.