TRENARY - They came from far and wide: hundreds of people had heard the legends, had been told how once a year, in the bowels of a tiny town called Trenary in southwestern Alger County, people with bellies full of beer and libations and bundled against the cold could be seen racing outhouses on skis down the middle of the street.
This year was the 21st running of the Trenary Outhouse Classic, and the enthusiasm for the event - from spectators and participants alike - shows no signs of diminishing any time soon.
One by one, each of this year's 26 two-member teams grabbed the push bar mounted to the outhouse of their own design and propelled their creation down the middle of Trenary Avenue on a track made of packed snow, to the screams and cheers and shouts of encouragement from the spectators packed along the track's sides.
The appropriately named 'Butt-o' of downstate Gaylord and his teammate Flies Eyes (not pictured) of downstate St. Johns struggle with their outhouse during their race for team TMFF in 'Da Sharts' 30- to 49-year-olds category at the 21st annual Trenary Outhouse Classic in southwestern Alger County Saturday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
The winners were teams posting the fastest times from each of five age groups - from the "Squirts" to the "Old Farts" - as well as a sixth group composed of teams representing several U.P. bars. Awards were also given for second and third place, and judges bestowed additional accolades on those whose outhouses they deemed most humorous, on those that had the best presentation and the best workmanship and to the team that traveled the farthest to participate.
But the real object of the race and the event and the whole day, really, is much more simple: to have a good time - to let it rip.
"It breaks up the monotony of the winter," said Tom Felty of Frankfurt, Ind., one of this year's judges, and for whom this was his 12th Outhouse Classic.
Felty said he originally learned about the event from the internet.
"I says, 'Man, looks like fun!' So I came, like I say, 12 years ago the first one, and just took pictures, and then me and my family have been coming back ever since and just having a good time," he said. "People ask me at home, 'Why do you drive there?' And I say, 'The people are friendly and they're great and it's just something to do.'"
First-time outhouse racers Jeff "Two Shakes" Woods of downstate Bancroft and Debra "Toey" Woods of downstate Gaylord, echoed similar sentiments shortly after finishing their "Old Farts" race Saturday.
"This is our first race and it was so tough," Deb Woods said, laughing. "My legs were rubber, man."
Jeff Woods said he has a cabin about 10 miles from Trenary, and the Outhouse Classic was something he'd always talked about doing. This year, he decided to take the plunge, along with his team TMFF - an expletive-containing acronym that stands for something similar to "Too Much Festive Fun."
And Jeff Woods and Deb Woods incorporated early, in the process of building their outhouse, the event's unofficial sacrament - alcohol.
"We had a hell of a party about two weeks ago, ground up a few deer and made some sausage and built a sh-tter," Jeff Woods said.
The party continued upon arriving in Trenary.
"We got here about 11 o'clock (a.m.) and started drinking then," he said. "It's been a good time."
Jeff Woods said he planned to make his attendance at future races a regular event, and said that overall he just loves the U.P.
"Yup, (and) it's something to do in the winter," Deb Woods agreed. "It's too long."
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.