The Town of Cochrane, located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just west of Calgary, is a typical western Canadian town in most respects.
It has a long history in ranching, agriculture, and the railway, and is now home to over 18,000 people, many of whom work in Calgary but who want to live outside the city, near the mountains and friendly neighbours.
Cochrane residents participate in the usual activities; hockey and soccer are big for kids, and many residents also run, bike or walk the town’s 30 km of pathways. Once each year though, the action moves to the town’s historic Main Street and a more unusual activity take place.
The Cochrane Outhouse Races, now in its twelfth year, attracts teams and spectators from all over the region. Teams of five race specially equipped outhouses down Main Street. The teams must have four runners and one “sitter.” Spectators gather, eager to “join the movement.”
Event organizer Karrie Peace says there aren’t a lot of criteria for the outhouses.
“There’s a height requirement, but otherwise, as long as they have wheels and handles on the outside, and a place to sit on the inside, they can race. They don’t actually have to be functioning outhouses,” she says.
Teams race in heats of two, until the field narrows to the two that will compete in the final.
The grand prize of $500 goes to the fastest team, and there’s another $500 for the funniest one. With teams from a local high school theatre group (in full costume), representation from sports teams, local banks, and coffee shops, it’s a fun day that attracts nearly 1,000 spectators.
The fastest team this year was from local retailer Heavenly Outhouse. The team members wore fluffy white wings, which obviously helped their time. Other teams vowed to come back next year and, “take no crap.”
The Sept. 29 event raised nearly $5,000 for Cochrane’s food bank.
Laurie Drukier is a writer, editor, and enthusiastic spectator living in Cochrane, Alberta.
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