Totnes Orange Races – Totnes, England - Gastro Obscura

Totnes Orange Races

Once a year a small English town gets together to chase oranges down a steep hill in honor of a legendary accident. 


Every August, one of the lanes in the British town of Totnes is closed down for a race like no other: man vs. orange. 

The festive, if strange, Totnes Orange Races occur every August in memory of an apocryphal tale of Sir Francis Drake’s clumsiness. As the story goes, Drake was visiting the market town in the 1580s when he bumped into a delivery person, upending their orange cart, sending oranges rolling down the street. The delivery boy scrambled after his escaped fruit and an odd tradition was born.

While the story may be based on a bit of fluid history, the orange races have become very real. Organized by the Totnes Elizabethan Society, the yearly races see competitors flock to the historic town to see if they are faster than the fruit. Everyone lines up at the top of Fore Street in the Market Square and then rolls or tosses their orange down the street, immediately chasing after it to keep it in motion. The only hard rule is that you cannot carry the orange, so most people hurl, kick, and roll their fruit towards the finish line. The first across with an intact orange wins (even if that orange is not the one they started with).

The race is followed by a charity auction, allowing the whimsical event to work towards a good cause. Trophies are given to the winners, but the real prize is knowing that you are as fast as an orange.    

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