Of all of these the Course de Caisses a Savon is by far the most unique and my favorite. Apparently Abeilhan is the only village with this particular event and it is becoming quite well known in the region. This is the event's fourth year and apparently it has gotten bigger and better each year.
When we left our house at 10 am we knew it was going to be quite a day - there were parked cars lining our street which at most has one or two. We rounded the corner at the end of our street and saw the streets packed with people of all ages. The course in down the main town street (which is not very slopped) and then the carts turn down a pretty steep little street. At the foot of that hill the carts have to make a pretty sharp right turn. Spectators are positioned behind metal barriers and at curves old tires are piled for protection.
There look to be about 25 vehicles officially participating. The carts are home constructed and the inner workings are probably a bit like the old "soap box derbies" of my childhood. There is no mechanical propulsion although some have pretty spectacular sound systems and colored smoke. Creativity is prized for the vehicle theme, design, and driver/passenger costumes.
The crowd favorite is a gondola, designed to resemble the jousting boats of Sete, which is driven by the owner of a local winery and he is wearing the traditional Sete costume. His passengers are dressed as newlyweds with the bride (in drag) with gigantic bosoms. There were also a number of regular all terrain vehicles (ATVs) zipping through the course to the finish line to tow the carts back to the beginning so they could repeat their run. One ATV was identified as an ambulance with a red cross on the back, fake IV bags hanging from stands, and a crazy siren (I think it might actually have been carrying the first aid team.
Other impressive themes were a high topped shoe, a bathtub (literally), a circus wagon, and an airplane. First the carts came through the course one by one, with yellow-shirted staffers blowing whistles to give the go ahead that the course was clear. There were quite a few crashes on the tight right turn but no one was injured and we only saw one cart that appeared to be "totaled".
The last run was all the carts coming through the course at the same time. It was mighty impressive. After this last run, the vehicles were all assembled at the town square so they could be admired up close. Then prizes were awarded by the mayor and the gondola was awarded the highest prize.
The event ended at 12:30 pm but the festivities continued (so we were told) through the afternoon at the bar in the main square.