Toilet and waiter races beat the rain at Hampdenfest

Only a late afternoon rain Saturday stopped a hoppin' Hampdenfest on The Avenue, but not before waitress Katherine Giauque won the festival's inaugural Baltimore Inter-Restaurant Battle.

In a wacky race for wait staffs at area restaurants — complete with an obstacle course and over-the-top tasks like running while carrying plastic glasses on a tray — Giauque, 27, of Hampden, posted a time of 2 minutes, 50 seconds.

"Thrilling," she said, back at work a few hours later.

Also flush with success were the members of Flush Gordon, the team that won the festival's third annual toilet races, a kind of potty-humored soapbox derby. Their racer, a four-wheel vehicle with plaster accents, was a collaboration of co-workers at Hayles & Howe, an ornamental plasterworks company in Hampden.

"It's our first time. We'll be back," said Ian "Brains" Jenkins, a teammate along with Shawn Smith, Julian Davis, Wills Mayo, Jim Meade and Mark Mordhorst.

This year's toilet running, a fundraiser for Skatepark of Baltimore, Inc., was noteworthy for the number of entries at $40 per vehicle —14 compared to seven in 2011— and for a marquee race between Steve Baker, creator and organizer of the races, and George Peters, Jr., the 2010 champion.

In a heat leading up to the finals, Peters, of Hampden, wearing a brown friar's garment and cross around his neck, ran in a rebuilt and religious-themed version of the "Golden Throne" that he rode to victory in 2010.

This time, it was called "Holy Crap."

But Peters' prayers went unanswered, as Baker, also of Hampden, edged him out, even after flipping over at the finish line.

As hundreds of people gathered at Chestnut Avenue and West 36th Street to watch the toilet races, Sheila Callahan had a bird's-eye view.

Callahan, 47, of Mount Washington, who works for T. Rowe Price in sales, stood on a newspaper box at the intersection, to see over the crowds.

Callahan said she didn't have any family or friends in the toilet races.

"But I do have several toilets in my house," she said.

In another major contest at Hampdenfest, Alex Fili, a staffer at Loyola University Maryland's radio station, WLOY, repeated as bread pudding-eating champion.

And in the Great Baltimore Mac-Off contest, Trinity Fisher, sous chef at Alchemy restaurant in Hampden, won the prize for the best professional macaroni and cheese, a dish made with three kinds of tomatoes, sun-dried, roasted grape and teardrop.

The Critics Choice winner for best amateur macaroni and cheese was Libby Francis-Baxter. Erik Berlin won a People's Choice award.

Berlin, of Hampden — who calls himself "Chef Egg" — had a hit with a macaroni-and-Gruyere-cheese. He has a show online and teaches cooking classes in the area, said Genny Dill, who ran the cook-off.

The races were long over by 4 p.m., when vendors, bands and sound crews began to pack up as the rain picked up.

"I think this is the first time that rain has shut down the festival," said Charlotte Murray, main organizer of Hampdenfest.

But the crowds left in good spirits and Dill observed that all in all, "It was a very good Hampdenfest."

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