Phoenix Idiotarod Brings Surreal Shopping Carts, Crazy Costumes, and Chaotic Fun to Downtown Phoenix This Weekend
The scene at the starting line of last year's Phoenix Idiotarod.
The kickoff of every single Phoenix Idiotarod race over the last six years can easily be summed up in a single word: Chaotic. Picture a hot mess of around 40 different five-person costumed teams launching into a mad dash en masse while pushing flamboyantly decorated shopping carts and flinging colorful gobs of goo at their competitors. Sounds kinda crazy, no?
While this same familiar scene of messy and madcap behavior will likely unfold yet again when the 2013 edition of the Idiotarod commences on Saturday afternoon, organizers claim that the rest of the race will incorporate some unfamiliar and completely new elements, however.
According to Milan Sierra, one of persons helping manage the Idiotarod, a variety of aspects of the annual race -- which features teams guiding their colorful shopping carts throughout downtown Phoenix to various bars and other checkpoints -- will be different from previous editions.
For instance, participants won't have a map to guide them during the competition. They also must participate in every one of the whacked-out challenges -- ranging from beer-chugging contests to maneuvering a balance beam -- that will be set up at each stop along the way.
"It's going to be a process where they're given clues at each checkpoint starting at the very first stop," Sierra says. "In years past, we've always let teams skip checkpoints. Well, this year they're not going to know where to go unless they actually complete the challenge or go to the checkpoint. When they complete the checkpoint or a challenge, they'll be given an envelope with a clue to the next stop."
It's much like the setup of renowned reality show The Amazing Race, which Sierra acknowledges as the inspiration behind the change.
"It's a little spin on the race [that's] like The Amazing Race," he jokes. "Yeah, you could almost call it The Amazing Idiotarod."
Sierra says that other changes to the race, which is organized every year by members of notorious urban prankster group the Arizona Cacophony Society, will include different downtown bars and drinking spots being used than in previous Idiotarod's, as well as unique and new challenges.
"We'll have completely different challenges than from years past, but on the same level of challenges of the past. Just crazy, idiotic challenges, let's put it that way. It's one thing we like to do as the Cacophony Society, just kind of mix it up so you get a brand new [race] every year," Sierra says. "There's going to be some new bar locations, checkpoints as we like to call them, where teams have to wait there for 20 minutes and can mingle with the other teams or sabotage the other teams."
A Monty Python-inspired cart from last year's Idiotarod.
One aspect of the Idiotarod that's staying the same is the humorous, outlandish, and downright bizarre themes that each team designs both its costumes and cart around each. Per the Arizona Cacophony's Idiotarod webpage, the field of competitors this weekend will include teams utilizing themes inspired by such disparate subject matter as Super Mario Bros., the old PBS educational show 3-2-1 Contact, the Valley's own Grumpy Cat, and coulrophobia (a.k.a. the fear of clowns).
Sierra and other organizers aren't privy to what sort of craziness each Idiotarod ensemble will come up with for their costumes and carts, save for the name of the team. Based on some of the salacious, surreal, and strange monikers being used by participating teams this year - including "FBI (Fucking Bullshit Investigators)," "Moonshiners: Drunk and Stupid," "Star Whores," and "The Price is Wrong" - they're expecting some memorable results, to say the least.
"It's always hush hush [and] I really don't know what to expect," Sierra says. "On race day, it's pretty cool to see what each one of these teams, how elaborate they got with their cart and with their costumes too."
Sierra has been involved with a rather, um...unforgettable carts himself, like when he and some friends transformed a shopping trolley into a mobile version of the Human Centipede.
"Basically you had these guys in tighty whities with a little strap hooked to the back of it," Sierra says. "And the first team member would put on the tighty whities and the guy behind him would put the strap behind his head and put on another pair of tighty whities with a strap hooked to the back, and so on."
(Feel free to utilize some mental bleach if necessary.)
Sierra's shudder-inducing shopping cart isn't the only memorable Idiotarod entry in recent editions of the race, he says.
"We've seen everything from a team of nurses giving abortions, their sabotaged fetuses were being thrown and flung all over the place, to [something] as simple as a hot dog cart team that was spraying catsup and mustard on everybody as their sabotage," he says.
He fully expects to witness similar shenanigans on Saturday at this year's Idiotarod.
"It's going to be insane," says.
Phoenix Idiotarod 2013 kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 9, at Margaret T. Hance Park. The event is free to watch.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the Phoenix art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.