“We’re dedicated to keeping the Yukon weird,” says Paul Robitaille, the marketing and events manager at the Klondike Visitors Association. He likens the Great Klondike International Outhouse Race to Jim Robb’s notion of the “Colourful Five Per Cent.”
“The goal of the event, for me, is to add to that… flavour of Dawson,” he says. “There’s that ‘strange things done under the Midnight Sun’ aspect which might attract some people.”
Details were not completely firmed up for this year’s race at the time of this interview, but he was able to confirm that it will be held on Saturday, August 12 and that the biffies will be launched with a Le Mans style start from the Minto Park ball field.
The race originated there back in the 1970s and was returned to that location last year.
It has moved in time, as well. It used to be Labour Day weekend, but the weather was uncertain and there were fewer visitors to see the event, so it’s been moved to August, either before or after the Discovery Days weekend, which also moves annually. This year, it’s before.
Teams of five (four runners and one on the throne) costume their outhouse, as well as themselves, and run a course that involves “physical challenges, hilarity and some serious racing,” according to the promotional description.
While this was once a serious five kilometre race all around the town with hotels fielding rival teams, and the other contestants in it for the laughs, the serious racers are now saving themselves for totally serious events, and the humorous contenders have taken over the race.
Last year the race got a little bit longer than it has been recently and now covers several city blocks. It will begin at Minto Park, head north on Fifth Avenue to King Street, west to Third Avenue, south to Princess Street, and east up to Fifth Avenue, where it will double back to the park beside the Dawson City Museum.
Outhouse frames are available for rent from the KVA for $25 on top of the $50 team registration fee ($10 per person). These are not actual outhouses, but are described on the website as “wheeled metal structures that resemble outdoor latrines. They are outfitted with rickshaw-like bars” fore and aft to aid with navigating the streets.
Teams pick a theme for themselves and their outhouses and are viewed by a judging panel where they give their best team cheer or limerick for the crowd. According to the rules, “Judges assess teams based on their creativity, design, theme and team spirit,” as well as keeping track of who wins the race.
Themes from past years include: the Whizzer of Oz (complete with Dorothy and Toto, too), Pooh and Friends, Dr. Poo’s Turdis (which plays on Dr. Who’s TARDIS), A Bout with the Runs, the Vegemite Express (from Australia), The Peace Movement, the Tiki Beach Bums, The Poo-Lution Team, the Turdles, the Dung Bats and Royal(e) Duty.
A typical year has seen six teams sign up for the event, though the KVA would like to see more. The viewing audience, on the other hand, is always large.
Last year the event included a water balloon toss and a barbecue, but those details aren’t worked out yet. What is known is that there will be a scavenger hunt aspect, as well as some places along the route where people will have to stop and do some activity.
One former employee of the KVA, Rachel Wiegers, now known for her burlesque prowess as Yukon Chevonne, has told Robitaille that this race was one of the reasons why she moved here. (Wiegers was profiled in Gaby Sgaga’s article “Less is Definitely More” in our April 12, 2017 issue.)
Several things are for sure. There will be prizes. There will be laughter. There will be toilet paper.
A former contestant, Robitaille says that some of the best times he can remember during his earlier years in Dawson were had hauling an outhouse around the streets.