Phoenix Idiotarod 2015: A Field Guide to Saturday, February 7's Event

The members of Rocky Road Kill from last year's Phoenix Idiotarod.
The members of Rocky Road Kill from last year's Phoenix Idiotarod.
Benjamin Leatherman

Just as the last remnants of Super Bowl XLIX are leaving downtown Phoenix, something far more crazy, colorful, and chaotic is about to roll through this weekend. And just like the big game, it's centered on competition, although nary any football is involved.

We're referring to the Phoenix Idiotarod, the madcap and mischief-filled race that invades downtown every February and is arguably one of the liveliest local events of the spring, to say the least. It's definitely one of the most unique.

See also: Santarchy 2014 in Photos

How come? Well, the yearly event (organized by members of the Arizona Cacophony Society) involves three-dozen shopping carts zooming around a portion of Phoenix, which is a bit unlike your ordinary race. If that's not interesting enough, consider the fact that each shopping trolley, which has been, um, appropriated from a local supermarket or big box store, is adorned with decoration while the five-person teams piloting it are wearing costumes, all of which is inspired by a particular theme.

A Star Wars-themed cart at Phoenix Idiotarod in 2013.
A Star Wars-themed cart at Phoenix Idiotarod in 2013.
Benjamin Leatherman

Upcoming Events

To wit: previous editions of the Phoenix Idiotarod, which is a spinoff of similar events nationwide and has been taking place locally since 2007, have included such entries as a team dressed as characters from South Park driving a cart decked out like a school bus, Star Wars fans costumes as Rebels with an X-Wing fighter, or the fighters from Mortal Kombat bombing around with an enormous Super Nintendo.

True to form, this year's edition of the Phoenix Idiotarod on Saturday, February 7, will include entries that riff on odd bits of popular culture and some of your favorite movies and television shows. According to the Arizona Cacophony website, the 36 teams scheduled to compete include those that we're fairly sure will riff on Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, The Dukes of Hazard, Super Troopers, Bad News Bears, and even the infamous Bum Fights video series.

Phoenix Idiotarod racers in 2013.
Phoenix Idiotarod racers in 2013.
Benjamin Leatherman

As with previous Idiotarods, The carts and their respective teams participate in an afternoon-long race that's seems to be as much about the chaotic fun and humorous costumes than the actual competition. (And like most other Arizona Cacophony-organized events -- like the annual Santarchy in December or the Brides of March next month -- there's plenty of drinking involved.

Phoenix Idiotarod participants get into a flour fight outside of the Crescent Ballroom in 2013.
Phoenix Idiotarod participants get into a flour fight outside of the Crescent Ballroom in 2013.
Benjamin Leatherman

There's a definite spirit of rivalry and one-upmanship with Phoenix Idiotarod as participants roll through the course that circumnavigates downtown and includes stops at various nearby bars and checkpoints featuring weird challenges like jousting, tug-of-war, or shotgunning a beer. Harmless pranks and sabotage are also common, ranging from chaining up opposing carts to dousing others with water balloons.

Like we said, it's pretty unique and downright gonzo, as well as being major fun to watch. And while the field of participating teams is already lined up and set in stone, the public is welcome to come and witness the spectacle unfold or join the participants for a round or two.

UPDATE: Phoenix Idiotarod organizers have informed us that a last-minute slot on the roster has opened up for a team. Anyone interested in competing in this year's event (and can put together a team quickly) is asked to e-mail idiotarodaz@gmail.com ASAP.

Here's a rundown of what to expect at Saturday's event.

The starting line of last year's Phoenix Idiotarod at Margaret T. Hance Park.
The starting line of last year's Phoenix Idiotarod at Margaret T. Hance Park.
Benjamin Leatherman

Time/Place: The race begins at noon on Saturday, February 7, at Margaret T. Hance Park near First and Moreland streets in downtown Phoenix. Teams will start checking an hour prior to that at 11 a.m. We definitely recommend showing up early, since you get to see all the carts, costumes, and competitors before everything's sullied by all the intensity of competition.

The list of bars, stops, and checkpoints will also be revealed on Saturday and the event typically runs throughout the afternoon and usually wraps up by the early evening. An after-party will also take place following the race at a yet-to-be-revealed location.

Price: It's free to watch, although if you'll (naturally) have to spring for drinks you order at any of the bars along the way.

Getting there: As with any downtown event where drinking is involved, your best bet is to take the light rail. One-way rides are $2, and an all-day pass is $4. Should you wind up driving, be aware that parking meters throughout downtown will be activated and enforced. Rates are $1 per hour with coins, $1.50 per hour with cards.

Age limits: While spectators of any age can come to the starting line or follow the race, be aware that some of the costumes and hi-jinks involved with Phoenix Idiotarod can sometime be a little risqué. Since the event takes place during the daytime, some of the bars/restaurants that serve as certain Idiotarod stops will be open to all ages.

Weather: It's gonna be warm with temperatures topping out at around 80 degrees, so dress accordingly.

Food and drink: Obviously, any of the bar stops will feature ample libations and eats.  

The Mortal Kombat team from Phoenix Idiotarod 2013.
The Mortal Kombat team from Phoenix Idiotarod 2013.
Benjamin Leatherman

What to bring: Water, since it's going to be balmy, and a camera or other picture-taking device, since it's going to be a memorable experience. Good walking shoes are also a good choice, if you plan on following teams as they race, and cash is recommended, if you'd like to drink at any of the bar stops. A love of silly, surreal, and madcap antics is also a plus.

What to do: Get an eyeful of all the costumes, carts, and craziness. Snap a few dozen pictures. Cheer on your favorite team, grab a bike and ride to the different checkpoints, have a drink or two, and hang out at the after-party. If you'd like to get involved beyond that (or are in cahoots with some of the Idiotarod competitors), you could also possibly toss some water balloons, confetti, messy foodstuffs, or other permitted substances at the opposition.

The Monsters Inc. team from last year's Phoenix Idiotarod.
The Monsters Inc. team from last year's Phoenix Idiotarod.
Benjamin Leatherman

What not to do: Throw any sort of human or animal waste (gross), block or sabotage any of the teams or competitors, freak out if you get hit with anything in the usual melee that unfolds during a typical Idiotarod, or spoil anyone's good time with drama.

What to expect:

Editor's note: This blog was updated from its original publication with additional info.

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Margaret T. Hance Park

1134 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

602-534-2406

www.phoenix.gov


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