Shoppers bundled up for a previous Early Bird Pajama Sale in Bar Harbor. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

PJ sale, bed races have fun history

BAR HARBOR — Residents and retailers won’t be sleeping in on Saturday, Nov. 12. The village starts hopping at 6 a.m. that day for the 22nd annual Early Bird Pajama Sale and 9th annual bed races.

More than 20 shops, restaurants and other businesses have signed up to offer deals between 6 and 9 a.m. Many offer additional discounts for shoppers in pajamas.

This year, the Criterion is putting on a 7:30 a.m. screening of “Dr. Strange” for non-shoppers who want in on the morning’s fun.

A pajama parade begins at the Village Green at 10 a.m., and the bed race action gets underway at 10:15 a.m.

Pat Curtis brought the pajama sale idea to Bar Harbor in the 1990s, when she was on the board of the Chamber of Commerce. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Pat Curtis brought the pajama sale idea to Bar Harbor in the 1990s, when she was on the board of the Chamber of Commerce. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

In the mid-1990s, Chamber of Commerce board members Pat Curtis and Gail Caruso first talked their fellow merchants into giving the pajama sale idea a try.

“My son Jeff had told me about it,” Curtis said. “They had it in Boothbay Harbor the Saturday before Thanksgiving, basically when the Christmas thing kind of starts.”

“We said to the board, we think this would be a good extension of the season,” Caruso said. For seasonal businesses, it’s a chance to clear out inventory rather than have it sit on the shelves for the winter.

Some were skeptical about whether shoppers would get up early, she said.

“But we said, ‘Oh, for a deal? Yes they will!’”

Curtis remembers wearing a housecoat to welcome customers at Sherman’s for that first event.

Caruso, who at the time had “Gail’s Garb” on Cottage Street, remembers meeting a couple who had so much fun they shopped all day in their PJs.

“They were staying at the Bar Harbor Inn, where their son was getting married. They were coming up the street in pajamas, and at first they thought the whole PJ thing might have been a gag on them!”

“That was our hope, was not only to help the retail for November, but also the restaurants and the lodging,” she continued. “It’s just really blossomed into a wonderful event.”

The bed races grew out of the pajama parade, Caruso said. The first running of the beds was held in 2008 and happened to coincide with the first snowstorm of the season.

“That first year, everyone had these heavy, four-poster beds,” she said. “The wheels would fall off, and it was just hysterical.”

These days, many groups get creative with their bed construction, but they still must have a real mattress or box spring of twin size or bigger, and they must have a rider on the bed the whole time it’s in motion.


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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