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Popular Coconut Grove bed race rolled down Grand Avenue for laughs and charity

It didn’t seem like a fair match-up at the annual bed race in Coconut Grove.

In one lane, the back-to-back champions of Miami police officers, team Grove 5-0.

In the other, a virgin team from a new Grove business. They donned 18th century French dress — including white powder wigs — and were ready to push a 200-plus pound mahogany bed and a lazy Marie Antoinette.

But in bed-racing, like love and life, it’s not about winning. It’s about the experience.

On Sunday, 30 bed-racing teams and hundreds of spectators got to experience the famed Great Grove Bed Race.

The Labor Day Weekend tradition dates back 30 years and was resurrected several years ago. It celebrates quirky creativity and supports charities, all by racing homemade beds on Grand Avenue.

This year, teams included police, firefighters, tattoo parlors, local businesses, like Scotty’s Landing fighting for a new lease, and even the Obama campaign.

“It’s our largest fleet ever with 30 beds,” said Daisy Lewis Salazar, the event producer.

Half of them were new and eager to promote their business or cause — from spaying animals to fighting leukemia and lymphoma.

Tony Albelo, who grew up in the Grove, wanted to advertise the Grovetoberfest. His bed had kegs for wheels and displayed dozens of beer labels. And the members drank beer cans as they strolled in the opening parade.

“It reminds me of how the Grove used to be,” said Albelo. “People say it’s dying and it’s not the same. To me the Grove is still hip, it’s still fun.

To build their bed, Albelo and his buddies welded kegs together. The job took a week. “We’re going for show. I don’t think this is conducive to speed. Plus we’re going to be drinking a lot of beer,” he said.

Apparently the team dressed in royal French dress was there for show, too.

In that early heat, Grove 5-0 won, speeding down the avenue with their bunk-bed tricked out on jogging-stroller wheels.

For their part, the Olfactory Co. team struck a pose and sashayed down the lane.

“We’re new here and we want to be part of the community,” said Mark Rojas, with the Olfactory Company, which sells soaps, teas and gifts in the Grove.

“It’s bedlam, pure bedlam,” he said of the atmosphere. Olfactory proved to be a favorite, winning four categories: best overall, best theme, best decor and best engineered.

Themes at the race ranged from pirates to the popular bikini-clad football team. Beds reflected a lot of creativity. One fashioned out of a hammock and umbrella, another made to look like a punk-rock baby crib, or the classic green-striped mattress for Scotty’s Landing, with a vintage motor and a fishing rod with beer cans.

“It’s pretty crazy stuff. Some of the beds are pretty elaborate,” said Cenk Ozdemir, who watched on. “It looks like they’ve been planning all year.”

Teams have four runners and one rider, who has to wear protection — a helmet.

“I’m Michelle Obama, Junior,” declared Audrey Bea Mbong, 22, the rider for the Obama campaign team. In addition to racing, the group registered people to vote. The event will benefit the Junior Chambers Easter Seals Toy Drive and Miami Children’s Hospital.

The event drew spectators both new and old.

Joslyn Fleming came from southwest Miami-Dade with her boyfriend and her two granddaughters.

“It’s exciting,” she said.

Her granddaughters, Jashawn Grant, 12, and Jaisha Jenkins, 8, liked the Miami-Dade firefighters team (so did a lot of others) and the team with men dressed in tutus.