Urban Iditarod omits sleds and dogs for silliness

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TAYLORSVILLE — Shaun Donahue exuded confidence.

He and his team of four "sled dogs" — friends dressed as lumberjacks with fake beards, flannel shirts, knit caps, jeans and boots — were anxious to avenge last year's 2nd Place finish.

Their "sled" consisted of a shopping cart, topped with a cardboard-tube that was painted as a log, with an actual circular saw blade stuck menacingly through its middle.

The silliness is part of the plan for Taylorville's 2nd annual "Urban Iditarod," organizers said. The Saturday morning race pitted oddly attired competitors in place of dogs and wacky shopping carts in place of dogsleds.

The idea comes from similar events also held in cities such as Chicago and Cincinnati to celebrate the start of the Iditarod, Alaska's much more serious dogsled endurance race.

"It's purely about fun and bragging rights," said organizer Rhetta McIff. "I think for Taylorsville it's about doing something nobody else (in Utah) is doing."

Eleven teams of five, clad in colorful costumes, pushed, pulled, ran or walked their shopping carts — many elaborately decorated — through a course that wandered between five competitive tests of skill and inventiveness.

It's purely about fun and bragging rights. I think for Taylorsville it's about doing something nobody else (in Utah) is doing.

–- organizer Rhetta McIff

They launched rubber chickens from bungee cords, sprayed a fire hose to knock over an orange cone, choreographed a dance, and committed other acts of goofiness.

Members of each team were only required to arrive as a group to each event.

A map marked the sites, but the route taken was left up to racers' strategies and imaginations, McIff said.

Also in the spirit of silliness, the rules of the five challenges somewhat "left open to interpretation," McIff said.

Besides the fun and the attention drawn to the city, McIff said, the Urban Iditarod raises money for various Taylorsville charities.

At the fire hose event, one creative group simply moved the orange cone that had been placed several yards away, placed it directly in front of the nozzle, then blasted it over.

At 10 a.m., McIff led the 55 competitors in a pre-race pledge: "Raise your right paws and repeat after me…. I will cross at the crosswalks…. I will return the cart to the store that it was lost from…. I will follow the no sabotage rules…. I will cross at the crosswalks."

McIff repeated the crosswalk rule for emphasis. It's one rule organizers take seriously, she said. Since organizers don't shut down any streets for the event racers must crisscross the traffic-laden 5400 South and Redwood Road.

Among rules somewhat winked at, however, is the no- sabotage rule. For example, somehow the 100-foot fire hose had been looped into a loose knot after a certain team of turtles departed the scene.

Donahue's team came for both fun and bragging rights, dubbing themselves "Kind of a Big Deal."

Why? Donahue's joking answer came as if it should have been obvious: "Because we are 'Kind of a Big Deal!' "

They chose their lumberjack costumes as the "most heat- preserving" option in anticipation the morning's cold, blustery, overcast weather, he added.

Another team dressed as a squad of Mutant Ninja Turtles, another as the staff of the popular TV show, "The Office." Still another sported a brightly colored Willy Wonka-themed cart.

The lumberjacks' strategy, according to Donahue: get out of the gate fast.

Also, they arranged for a friend to go ahead in a car and call in course corrections.

After the lumberjacks "nose-dived" their shopping cart enroute to the first event, they had to quickly re- assemble it.

But after 53 minutes, 30 seconds, the five crossed the finish line — 1st Place.

In second came last year's winners, "White Lightning," who were dressed in brightly colored briefs over black tights.

Other awards were also given for scoring highest in the events, most enthusiastic, best cart and costumes, and for those dead last, the "It's About Time You Got Here" award.



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Ladd Brubaker


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