FOR years, traffic in Bampton has been brought to a standstill while nightshirt-wearing villagers run between pubs pushing prams and downing beer for an annual race.
This year, a new route has been designed for the Original Great Shirt Race that will allow traffic to flow throughout the event on Saturday, May 24.
But hopes that the 62nd race will be graced by its first international competitor were dashed after a Japanese TV star pulled out.
Don Rouse, a member of organisers the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Junketing (SPAJERS), said: “We had to close the roads, which meant no traffic could get through and caused motorists to get very irate.
“So we’ve provided Bampton with a ring-road bypass system and the race will take part within it.”
The contest is believed to date back centuries but was revived in 1953 as part of the Queen’s coronation celebrations.
It involves teams of two people racing around the village in nightshirts, or other fancy dress, with one pushing the other in a ruck, pram or ‘chariot’.
Each team has to drink half a pint of ale in the seven stops – either outside pubs or houses with tables – on the route. About 120 people take part in three events, including an adult race and two races for primary and secondary schoolchildren with soft drinks.
It raises about £800 each year for the SPAJERS, which uses funds to help elderly people in the village.
The new route – dubbed the “Bampton bypass” – has been created after years of closing roads intermittently without diversions.
For the past 10 years, the race has started outside Rosebank care home in the High Street, but it will now begin in Bridge Street.
Mr Rouse said he had been contacted by a Japanese TV company proposing that Daisuke Miyagawa would take part in the race.
The TV star previously competed in the Cooper’s Hill cheese-rolling contest in Gloucestershire and had earmarked the Bampton race as part of a programme in which he tours unusual British events.
Mr Rouse said: “Obviously we don’t normally get Japanese people taking part but it would have put the word out about one of Bampton’s quirky traditions.”
The event starts with a fancy dress parade and judging at 6.45pm. Races start at 7.15pm and last until about 8pm.