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16th Annual Trenary Outhouse Classic

This entry and photos have been submitted by guest blogger Ashley Bovin who grew up in Gladstone, Michigan. While being away for college at GVSU for 4.5 years, she realized how much she missed the Upper Peninsula, and now has a life goal of experiencing as much of it as she can. She writes often in her personal blog at ashleyruthless.blogspot.com.

On Saturday, February 28th, the Trenary Outhouse Classic overtook the small town of Trenary for its 16th year. I have probably heard about the Outhouse Classic every year since its inception, but had never gone to watch. However, during my last semester of college, I began researching some of the U.P.’s most beloved idiosyncrasies for a writing project. I suddenly became fascinated with this one-of-a-kind Yooper racing event, and hoped to be there this year. I suppose a Sweet 16 celebration is as good a time as any for a gal to attend her first outhouse races.

 

Trenary Outhouse Classic

For those who aren’t familiar with this gem of Yooper culture, here’s a general rundown of the rules:

  • Anyone who wants to participate must build an outhouse out of cardboard or wood, and mount it on skis.
  • Every outhouse must include a toilet seat and a roll of toilet paper (duh!), and push bars to use while racing.
  • On racing day, two teammates run their makeshift commode 500 feet down the snow-covered track (which happens to be Trenary’s main street, flanked by rows of rowdy spectators).

Trenary Outhouse Classic

The competition is split into five age groups, from 12 & under to 50+. Besides getting the best time, there are also prizes awarded for “best in show” and “furthest traveled.” This year, teams came from Frankfort, Indiana; Dayton, Ohio; and Ann Arbor, Wetmore, Marquette, Negaunee, and Gladstone, Michigan.

Trenary Outhouse Classic
The IndyCan was raced three times – in this photo, in the 50+ category. The reason? The side of the outhouse reads “Economic Crapper Cutback”

Past crowds have been noted to be in the thousands. Though I can’t say for sure what this year’s attendance was like, it is safe to say that Trenary’s population swells every year when the races are in town. My friend Jared and I stood right along the raceway, in front of the famous Radio Results Network boom box trailer. Magic 97.1’s TJ Ryan was inside, beer in hand, announcing the racers and their times over the PA system. I saw a couple guys toting 30-packs of beer along the racetrack, and some gals drinking from their beer cozies. One man standing across the racetrack from me made no effort to belch silently. A couple outhouses’ décor bordered on filthy (or, okay, totally surpassed filthy). It’s definitely not an atmosphere for the refined, or those who lack a sense of humor.

Trenary Outhouse Classic
I believe this was the NMU entry. After it passed, spectators experienced a sort of “eau de outhouse.” They had lit a stink bomb before taking off!

Spectators lined the street from start to finish, and many people sought the higher ground of the snow mountains created from the winter’s plowing. In between runs, the crowd attempted “the wave” a few times. People from age 3 to 83 were there to enjoy this annual tradition. You might ask how the idea of racing outhouses in the middle of winter would draw a crowd year after year. If so, many Classic spectators might have a question for you: What else have we got to do in the middle of a long U.P. winter?

Trenary Outhouse Classic
My personal favorite. “Donald Dump Tower,” pushed by The Donald(s) himself!

So, who else was there? What did you enjoy the most?


4 Wonderful Comments

  1. Yooper Steez
    Admin
    Mar 4, 2009

    Ashley, thanks for the guest post. It’s greatly appreciated since I couldn’t make it.

    Also, I have to say that the pins are fantastic. Classy.

  2. I was born and raised a yooper but now I live in Fairbanks,AK and we have outhouse races like those in a week or two in about 30 mi north in Chatanika. And it’s a HUGE deal too! lol. I love how the Alaskan and Yooper cultures overlap. Thanks for the blog!

  3. A friend of mine from the Grand Rapids area told me that the small West Michigan town of Coopersville also holds outhouse races, called the Outhouse 500. Their outhouses have to all have a similar design, though, and are mounted on wheels instead of skis. http://www.coopersville.com/documents/outhouse500registrationkit.pdf

    I’ve heard that it’s done in the southern U.S., too. I wonder which one’s been around the longest.

  4. Great site! I was raised in good old T-Town (Trenary) but have since moved away. I still come home to my parent’s every year for the races! Have attended all 16 years! It is almost as important as Thanksgiving. To anyone who has not been there, you will never understand and those who have, well, we can’t quite expain it! LOL

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