Wipe Your Calendar for the Virginia City Outhouse Races
Go ahead. Take a bathroom break.
You’re on a trip to the typically sedate Virginia City, a gold rush town which sprung up in Western Nevada thanks to a gigantic discovery of silver–AKA the Comstock Lode. Maybe you’re hoping to visit an abandoned mine, sip a tipple in a haunted pub, clomp down wooden boardwalks flanked by charming 19th century facades, or stop in the Mark Twain museum, housed in the former newspaper office where the writer cut his teeth. Sure, that would be nice.
But suddenly, you look down C Street and see them coming. With the dusty Sierra Nevadas as a backdrop, outdoor latrines root and toot your way, barreling forth on gigantic wheels. They’re shaped like sharks and castles and adorned with bull horns, cowboy hats, and boas. They’re manned by teams of three and emblazoned with names like “Storm Pooper,” “Flapper Crapper,” and “Comstock Load.” Their goal is a finish line made of—what else?—toilet paper. So you duck out of the way, pick your favorite (Comstock Load, of course), and start cheering. You don’t want to be a party pooper. Or wait, maybe here, you do.
Okay, perhaps the annual World Championship Outhouse Races wouldn't actually take you by surprise if you were on a journey to Nevada’s western corner. There are plenty of warning signs. Held on the first weekend of October—this year’s runs October 1–2—the event draws upwards of 3,000 raucous spectators annually to Virginia City, lining up along Main Street in search of some craptastic action. 2022 marks the 33rd installment of the competition.
And it’s not the only outhouse race around, of course. Jackson, North Carolina, Trenary, Michigan, Anchorage, Alaska, Nemo, South Dakota, Inlet, New York, and more all have their own (Anchorage’s claims to be the largest, and possibly the coldest, as their outhouses move on skis). But Virginia City’s is, perhaps, the only one that began as a political protest.
This race harkens back to when outdoor latrines were banned by town ordinance in favor of indoor plumbing. So the latrine-loving citizens did the only logical thing: They marched to the courthouse to show their displeasure, dragging their outhouses behind them (sounds… messy). And a tradition took hold.
Today, the outhouse races are more festive—some would even say flush with fun—featuring games and music including a “banjo man.” The Parade of Outhouses kicks off the event. The outhouse races, where costumed teams go head to head inside amusing homemade contraptions, is the cornerstone, while the “Fun with the Runs Undie Relay,” where contestants chug alcohol and complete toilet-themed challenges around landmarks in town, adds to the madness. (If you’re looking for a new way to get to know a city, here’s a novel option).
Should you want to compete, potty humor is a must, and the specifications for outhouses are available by request. You can also rent one—but act fast, as those are limited. Then, all you need to do is squat down, and fly like the wind.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.