If you happened to be cruising through either central or midtown on Saturday, February 7, there's a good chance you caught a glimpse of this year's Idiotarod in progress. After all, its participants certainly made it easy enough to spot them.
As with any of the previous versions of the annual Phoenix Idiotarod urban shopping cart race, this year's event was packed with surreal sights and shenanigans, including five-person costumed teams racing carts decked out like the General Lee, a gigantic toilet, or even a real-life version of Princess Unikitty down sidewalks along McDowell Road or other streets.
See also: Phoenix Idiotarod 2015 in Photos
There were also impromptu fights between teams outside of race checkpoints likes Bandaids Show Club or SideBar that involved paint or chocolate sauce being thrown, unusual physical challenges like recreating the "Gangham Style" dance or shooting potato guns at other stops along the way, and plenty of other mischief and merriment taking place.
And just like any other edition of the Phoenix Idiotarod, each of the 36 teams involved (some featuring anywhere from five to 10 members) had its own unique theme, costume selection, and decorated cart, many of which were inspired by movies, pop culture, and various Internet oddities. True to form, this year's entries included such disparate subject matter as KISS, the Care Bears, Crayola crayons, strip clubs, Vikings, and Hot Wheels, as well as two groups that riffed on Animal House.
While we salute each and every one of the Phoenix Idiotarod teams for their creativity and moxy, there were 11 that we especially enjoyed and felt were more attention-grabbing than the rest.
Spice Girls/Backstreet Boys
Crossdressing is sort of a common thing at Phoenix Idiotarod as a number of guys will don drag (and vice-versa) for comic effect or if their team's theme calls for it. Such was the case at this year's event as there were at least two gender-bending groups of participants, both of which riffed on a pair of legendary pop bands of the late '90s. One team of female friends parodied the Backstreet Boys, including aping the infamous boy band's all-white threads from their mega-popular album Millennium and creating a rocket ship-like cart that may have been inspired by the spacecraft from the music video for "Larger Than Life."
Conversely, there were the four dudes (and one woman teammate) who vamped it up as the members of the Spice Girls and had a cart modeled after the two-story bus from 1997's so-bad-its-good Spice World movie. It led to a funny scene at the checkpoint in the Willo district where a couple of actual double-decker busses were parked for the neighborhood's annual home tour.
Having grown up in the '80s, we were definite fans of The Dukes of Hazzard, its memorable theme song, and (naturally) its signature car, the General Lee. And while a shopping cart might make for an awkward frame to work around when recreating the famed vehicle, as evidenced by this team's rather bulky rendition of the iconic orange vehicle, we enjoyed the fact they made the effort, at least. While it would've been cool if the cart would've attempted a few death-defying jumps like the ones seen on the show, we're pretty sure the cart wouldn't have survived said stunt.
At any rate, this ensemble offered most of the show's retinue of characters, such as Bo and Luke, Uncle Jesse, Boss Hogg, and bumbling sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and his equally bumbling deputy, Enos Strate. And, yes, there was also a few Daisy Dukes, all of whom were wearing, um, daisy dukes.
Admittedly, the inspiration behind this cart is decidedly vile and downright offensive, especially if you're familiar with the scatological slang term that it references. All that said, it made for one of the funnier Idiotarod entries. And while the race's organziers strictly forbid competitors throwing human waste at anyone else, there's no rule against dressing up as it.
All all five participants (including local residents James Frink, Paul Weldon, Peter Bugg, and Mark Weldon) dressing as enormous turds and rolling around with a cart decked out like a giant toilet that was manned by a blow-up doll. "That's kind of how we roll," says team member Ryan Rafert, "We're all just real shitheads."
Their crap-tastic costumes didn't last long, however, as the warmer-than-normal temperatures on Saturday (which got as high as 81 degrees) caused the Upper Deckers to ditch the stifling outfits by the second stop of the race in the Willo neighborhood. Feel free to insert your own "hot shit" jokes here.
Skunk as Drunk
These guys were a bunch of stinkers, to put it mildly. And we say that not just because they were all dressed as anthropomorphized skunks. At various points throughout Saturday's race, this fivesome (who pushed around a giant "Butt Light" beer can) kept repeatedly throwing some rather smelly stink bombs on the ground, resulting in many participants holding their noses or gagging.
It was all part of the fun of the Idiotarod, which typically involves teams tossing all manner of items and substances at one another in order to sabotage the competition, and was quite an amusing sight, even if we were one of the those plugging up our noses until the stink passed.
Much has been written online about the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot/sequel and the fact it will sport an all-girl cast. Not everyone is thrilled with the prospect, but we're totally behind it. And apparently, so are the members of this Idiotarod cart, which featured a female Ghostbuster, as well as a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a Zuul-possesed Dana Barrett (a.k.a. The Gatekeeper), Vinz Clortho (a.k.a. The Keymaster), and one member who came as the Ghostbuster symbol. What made the cart even cooler was that it resembled a giant ghost trap.
Too Fat To Kidnap
Fans of The Wizard of Oz will likely enjoy this team's excellent recreation of the characters from the beloved film, which included the hot-air balloon that whisked Dorothy back to Kansas at the end. We're not entirely certain of the connection between the team's somewhat bizarre name and their choice of source material, however, if there is one at all.
We also got differing answers regarding why they chose to pay tribute to the 1939 cinematic classic. Rick Eastman, who played the Scarecrow, says its because its one of their "favorite movies ever," while others said it was because their teammate Maria Dehghan (a.k.a. The Cowardly Lion) had hair that resembled the wild mane of the character from the film. Our favorite response came from Bryan Thelen, who donned the costume of the Tin Man. "We wanted to do this because I'm into metal and I don't have a heart." Right on.
This team's choice to go as some of the most memorable characters from Warner Bros. Cartoon canon -- including Wile E. Coyote, Marvin the Martian, Yosemite Sam, and Speedy Gonzales -- seemed very fitting, considering that Idiotarod is often just as chaotic and colorful as your average Looney Tunes misadventure. "Who isn't a fan of Warner Bros. Cartoons?" said Melinda Paiva, who portrayed The Roadrunner.
We also dug their transformation of a shopping cart into a Wile E. Coyote-style ACME rocket. And while team member Sara Libby (a.k.a. Marvin the Martian) jokingly told us that they were going to set it off at the end of the race, their were (sadly) no "earth-shattering kabooms" to be had.
Robin Your Dignity
The late Robin Williams had a quirky sense of humor, to say the least. So much so that we're willing to bet that he'd probably approve of this team's macabre tribute to his career and some of his most famous screen roles, including Popeye, the Genie from Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Alan Parrish from Jumanji, and Patch Adams. "It was a great way to be morbid and to have a little fun," says Chuck Vaughn, who donned drag to become Mrs. Doubtfire.
Reactions by their fellow Phoenix Idiotarod competitors ranged from amused looks and many laughs to a few fans of Williams that seemed a little wistful, like the dude who seemed to have his heart-strings pulled by the cart when he proclaimed, "Aww...fuck you guys!" in good-natured fashion.
There are few Phoenix Idiotarod regulars who tend to impress with whatever they come up with each year, and this group of friends tend to bring out carts that have been both enjoyable and amusing. In 2013, they created a parody of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship and followed it up last year with a ribald take on UPS delivery drivers that was dubbed the "Unbelievable Package Show."
This year, they decided to pay tribute to Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Jurassic Park with most of the principal cast (and even a few dinosaurs) being portrayed, including Logan McKenzie going as John Hammond, his wife Debra playing a velociraptor, Molly Monahan as Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Erin Halliburton as the tough-as-nails game warden Robert Muldoon.
The Lego Team
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Another group that tends to go all out at each Idiotarod is this team, which awed and amazed last year with their realistic-looking plastic army men costumes. They definitely topped themselves on Saturday by faithfully recreating most of the characters from The Lego Movie, including turning their cart into Princess Unikitty and creating costumes for Emmet Brickowski, Lord Business, Benny the Spaceman, Wonder Woman, and (of course) Batman.
According to the team's ringleader Valerie Arroyo, who played Wyldstyle, members of the eight-person group spent upwards of 10 hours a night for four straight night building everything. But while their costumes were great to look at, she admits they were a bit difficult to move around in at times. "We always bring it and we always have a big team 'cause none of us runs. We drink more than we run," she says. "We're miserably hot every year, but we bring it with our costumes and we need help 'cause we're always too weak to push the cart."