Conconully, on the sunny side of Washington’s North Cascades, is about four blocks long, with an official population of less than 300.
Once each year, though, the tiny town overflows with up to 2000 people – and more than a dozen outhouses.
The potties that pop-up downtown are definitely portable.
But they’re not put there for folks who need a place to ‘go’ on the go.
Mounted on skis and, more often than not, built without doors or walls, these outhouses are constructed for speed and are strictly for racing.
Yes, racing. For almost 30 years now, Conconully has held its annual Outhouse Races on a gently sloping, snow-covered course down Main Street, right in the middle of town.
After being inspected by the judges, outhouses take the course two at a time, with teams made up of one rider (officially known as “the sitter”) and two pushers.
Prizes are awarded to teams that make the best time in a variety of divisions (family, kids, seniors, etc.) and to the winners of the Extreme Challenge Race, in which outhouses are maneuvered along an obstacle course.
There’s also a prize for the winner of the Bucket Race, which requires pushers to wear white buckets over their heads while the sitter shouts directions telling them where to go.
During the 2010 races, 83 year-old Max Ehinger of Ephrata served as a ‘sitter’ in the senior race division, which requires each three-person team to register a combined age of at least 125. Over the years, Ehinger and his wife have had three generations of their family race outhouses, winning trophies with Butt Hutt 1 and Butt Hutt 2.
“The obstacle race is especially entertaining,” says Max, “They get all tangled up and sometimes veer off course into hay bales on the sidewalk. I’ve never seen anyone get hurt, though, and it’s all just a lot of good, clean fun.”
Sound like a party you want to part of? Spectators are welcome to paper the sidewalk, but if you want to enter a homemade crapper in the contest, you’ll need to follow a few rules:
Each non-motorized, non-steering privy must be made out of wood or wood by-products, mounted on two skis (fiberglass or plastic only), have 3-sides and a full roof and be at least 5 feet tall and 2 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet square. “Our insurance agent also prefers that all sitters wear helmets,” says Marilyn Church of the Conconully Chamber of Commerce, “And of course, every outhouse must have a toilet seat and roll of toilet paper on a toilet paper hanger.”
The poop on the Outhouse Races:
Conconully’s Outhouse Races are held each year on the third Saturday in January and the 2011 races will held on Saturday, January 15th. There’s a $25 registration fee for each outhouse, but each outhouse can be entered in multiple races. Conconully is located about 20 miles northwest of the towns of Omak and Okanogan. For more information, see the Conconully town website or call (877) 826-9050.
Photos courtesy: Marcia Ehinger and Conconully Chamber of Commerce
This story first appeared in AAAJourney.com in December 2010.