There was a time when the Great Klondike International Outhouse race featured 12 to 17 teams and was quite a bit more of an extreme sport than it is now. It had a course that began in front of the museum, ran north on Fifth Avenue, up the hill on Church to Eighth Avenue, over to Queen, down the hill (nearly out of control), to Front Street and back around to the museum.
Imagine doing that race with four people pushing or pulling a wheeled conveyance tricked out to look like an outhouse, with a fifth member of the team sitting on the throne for the entire trip.
In 1989, the Klondike Sun recorded the sixth year that the very serious runners in the Downtown Hotel’s entry ran away with the race, taking both the men’s and overall titles. In those days there were men’s, women’s and mixed entries and they came in two types, as I wrote at the time.
“Serious runners, like the winners, run in stripped-down biffies, which have no frills to flap in the breeze. Those that are in the race just for fun vie to sport the most elaborate get-up. This year saw teams like the Persistent Order Of Pioneers, along with a team in oversized top hats, and another in winter togs pulling an igloo.”
The joker teams sported names like Cash and Carry Crapper, Jackpott, K.V.Eh Slots, the Windbreaker, or the Crapola Crayons, while the speed demons simply ran as White Lightning.
Over the years, the race has become less serious, as various road relays and other events pulled away the dedicated runners and left the novelty teams to carry on the tradition. There have generally been fewer than 10 teams in recent years, even though the Klondike Visitors Association provides the outhouses. One or two of the serious entries can still be seen gathering dust in back lanes around town, looking like abandoned mining equipment.
These days, the course is all downtown on flat ground. Sometimes there’s a scavenger hunt as part of the contest. Teams are encouraged to come up with a theme chant or, if possible, a limerick suitable for reciting at a family event.
Last year’s entries had names like Royal(e) Duty, the Dung Bats, the Soggy Bottom Boys, Bumkin’s Pumpkins and the (Teenage Mutant Ninja) Turdles. The Turdles were made up of Diamond Tooth Gertie’s dancers from the casino, and these ladies (who are constantly in training) had been the winners for several years in a row. In 2012, however, they only managed a second place finish, so they’ll be looking for a comeback this year.
This year’s racers will gather out front of Gertie’s around 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 1, and no one will really be sure how many there will be until then. There may be a game of horseshoes, played with open-ended toilet seats. There may be limericks or chants. There will certainly be people in assorted weird costumes prepared to run a race to amuse both themselves and the visitors to town, folks who have come to see what is the last big public event of the Klondike’s tourist season.