For the 17th consecutive year, groups of bizarrely costumed, self-proclaimed “Idiots” assembled on a winter Saturday with elaborately decorated shopping carts in tow. The Idiotarod (named in homage of the famous Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska) started out cold and damp at Fort Greene Park this past weekend, and things only got soggier from there. That didn’t stop 14 teams from racing—well, walking sort of quickly—through various levels of cold rain from one checkpoint to the next, eventually traversing five miles to finish in Ridgewood seven hours later.
At each checkpoint, the teams had to complete a variety of strange challenges, which ranged from arcade games to bizarre quizzes to acting out their own erotica involving President Warren G. Harding or Calvin Coolidge (the two presidents of the previous ’20s). The checkpoints were each housed inside a different bar along the route, as in years past, so a bar crawl aspect has essentially become baked into the event. Since the challenges emerge in barely controlled mayhem, one team managed to set up their own, which the other teams dutifully completed without realizing it was unofficial: having their own “Dick pic” taken with a Polaroid. In this case, the shots were referred to by their formal name, “Richard pictures,” and the options included masks of Dick Cheney, Richard Nixon, and Little Richard, among others.
The distance between the first and second checkpoints was the longest (2.25 miles) and happened to coincide with the most torrential rain of the very stormy day. So it wasn’t surprising to watch one team lugging their cart down the steps of the J train close to Wonderville, the second checkpoint. Another team, the Lunch Ladies, took turns feeding the other “Idiots” with spot-on school lunch offerings, like cheese sandwiches, cold mac-n-cheese, and pudding cups. It was evidence of a shift in tone from races past; the Idiotarod has long included a subtle element of sabotage, meaning teams were more likely to merrily u-lock competitors’ carts to a fence than feed them a meal.
Team CamoFrauds also demonstrated similar kindness with offerings of homemade venison chili and dry socks. They would go on to win the top award, Best in Show, bolstered by the fact that two of their members had just gotten engaged to one another, after meeting at an Idiotarod race four years ago.
There were plenty of perplexed passersby throughout the race who stopped to watch spontaneous dance parties or to snap selfies with different teams. As day turned into night, things got progressively more intoxicated, perhaps helped by various team’s “costume features,” such as the Horrorscopes “elixirs” which were coordinated with each sign of the zodiac, or team LaGuardia’s leaky ceiling that dispensed a murky brown liquid straight into competitors' mouths.
One participant was overheard breaking down one of the key differences between the Idiotarod and the popular Santacon event, noting that creating a themed team, assembling costumes, and building out a cart requires far more effort and creativity than just buying a cheap Santa suit. Exemplifying that extra effort was team Scum River, who came all the way from Richmond, VA, to compete.
After the award ceremony, everyone dragged the sodden, mangled remains of their costumes and carts to a dead-end street for the ceremonial “smashing of the carts.” In past years, the destruction has happened by catapult, forklift, “jaws of death,” and guillotine. This year the death-blows were delivered via a custom battering ram attached to a van. After the carnage, all the participants pitched in to clean up, separating the scrap metal from the debris. So if you happen to stumble upon an orphaned shopping cart over the next year, you may want to squirrel it away in your apartment and start brainstorming a team theme for Idiotarod XVIII.
A full list of the official awards and winners below.
***OFFICIAL RESULTS IDIOTAROD VXII 2020***
1 Best In Show: CamoFrauds
2 Best Costumes: Merminators
3 Best Industrial Design: Laguardia
4 Bribery: Horrorscopes
5 Sabotage: Scum River
6 Checkpoint Award: #3 but shout out to Andrew at #2
7 Best John Hughes Nightmare: Lunch Ladies
8 Best Historical Reenactment: Pirates
9 Social Media Award: Richard Pix
11 Big Pharma Always Wins Award: Drug Cartel