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Outhouse Races Run Through Brown County

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Pit Crews push racers, already in their crafts, two by two up Nashville’s Main Street hill — a view of the town gazebo and the finish line at the other end. At the top, drivers draw straws to pick lanes. Crew members worry about possible wheel wobbles that might occur if riders hit a manhole cover just off the center of the right hand lane.

It’s not soap box derby racing or even car racing of any kind.  Instead, it’s wheeled contraptions based around a folk icon – the outhouse.  Which begs the question – do you floor it or flush it?

Actually, it’s not a race for speed, but for distance, which results in some surprising strategy.

“I’m top heavy so I have to learn forward to get the momentum. So I knew the closer I get to the ground the better it was going to be.”

That’s Corene Crawhorn, the driver of Brown County Healthy Living’s loo.  Crawhorn’s team pushes the back wheels of her commode over a plywood stop, which has a quick release, letting both houses roll simultaneously….

Racers run in one of two divisions. Those in division one, the majority of participants, use a provided four wheel base, while those in division two are allowed to  use their own wheels and create their own base.

No matter the division, each japoly has one center steering wheel, a wooden structure and of course a porcelain seat. Every competing toilet comes with its own embellishments-some look like Tiki huts or castles — and then there’s John Zody’s.

Zody says he tries to outdo himself every year.  This year’s not only rolls, it rocks, too

Zody even dressed himself up for the event.

“It’s a spandex outfit with platform shoes with a big silver diaper. Came with no instructions and that’s my wife there. Took her about half an hour to figure out how to put it on me,” Zody said.

But aesthetic modifications aren’t the only changes drivers and their crews have made. Tommy House, the engineer for the Brown County Health and Wellness team wouldn’t share details of his remodel.

“I can’t reveal that but I want the world to know, I did not go to college. I went to the School of hard knocks and I used my head. I consulted engineers and they would not help me, so hillbilly engineering got er done! The best thing was I was just trying to beat our competitor, Bear Hardware. We had a gentleman’s bet of Coke or Mountain Dew and it looks like I’m drinkin’ me a nice cold Coke,” House said.

Whatever he did must have worked, because the Health and Wellness team wins the final race in its division and faces the Lions Club – winners of Division II

But the Lions Club team has the upper hand, using two bicycle wheels with training wheels on the side to take the throne. Event organizer Bob Kirlin says the event raises about 5-thousand dollars yearly for charity. But why race outhouses in the first place? Kirlin says he really doesn’t know.

“I can’t really tell you that there’s a story behind it. Of course in beautiful Brown County there’s a lot of outhouses out in our county and we just thought it’d be nice just to race outhouses. If you go onto your website there’s probably over 100 outhouses all over the united states, so we just decided to have one here in beautiful Brown County,” Kirlin said.

Whatever the reason, Kirlin says the number of event participants has nearly doubled since the inaugural “runs” in 2004.

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Photo by Andrew Olanoff/ WFIU

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