Costumed pranksters pushing elaborately decorated shopping carts will be flying down Brooklyn streets on Jan. 27 as part of the 14th annual Idiotarod race, which in the past has included groups dressed as a pack of Elvises, a herd of monks, and a troupe of mimes.
For those who don’t know about the race/spoof, it’s a yearly parody of the Iditarod dog race in Alaska, but instead of dogs, it’s shopping carts that have been transformed into parade-like floats.
Each team prepares weeks in advance, attempting to create the most outrageous, hilarious or artistic entries for a chance to win “spectacular” trophies for their showmanship, according to organizer Sherry Smith.
Smith, who goes by Dr. Smith of IDIOT Labs — the satirical name the group of organizers goes by — says the worst thing participants can do is try to cross the finish line first.
“It’s a surefire way not to win,” she said. “It’s really about showmanship.”
In the past few years, runners have dressed as the G train, “Thomas the Train Wreck,” the “Game on Thongs,” “Indiana Jones” and even “Medieval Times.”
This year, Smith says she’d be very surprised if the race didn’t include some handmaidens from Hulu’s award-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She still has yet to see a “Breaking Bad”-themed team, however.
“I hope that this year is the kind of cathartic fun that it has been,” she said. “Last year was a traumatic time after the inauguration, and the race was a really healthy way for people to blow off steam.”
Groups are encouraged to take part in “good-natured” sabotage — as long as it’s somewhat clean. (Throwing eggs between carts has since been forbidden, because of the mess.)
The fun continues at each checkpoint, which happen to be inside bars. That’s where the judges put the teams to the test with ridiculous challenges, like a stripper pole dancing contest, tongue twisters and building a house of cards.
Smith insists it’s not like SantaCon.
“Participants can’t just show up — they have to make a time investment to join into this thing,” she said. “They have to have a cart and costumes — it’s about artistry and production.”
Once the “race” is finished, awards are given out, which tend to change year to year. Teams vie for titles like “best engineering,” “best in show,” “best bribery” and “best sabotage.” If there’s an incredible cart that doesn’t fit a category, the judges will make one up.
Even though the event usually falls on a freezing day in January, IDIOT Labs won’t move the date. It’s something to look forward to in an otherwise bleak month, Smith said.
After more than a dozen prior runs, the race has seen some changes and a turn away from an intense competition to a way to have some harmless fun.
“It’s grown more into a parade,” Smith said. “It’s jovial and very friendly now. As long as we’re having fun and people are showing up and doing a good job, we don’t see any reason to stop it.”
Watching the race requires monitoring the event’s Twitter page before noon on the day of to find out its location. The organizers don’t want to draw a large crowd, which could bring littering and issues with police, Smith said.
If you can’t make the race, the awards ceremony and after party are always open to the public and include the annual destruction of the carts, whether by fire or hydraulic press.
For more information, visit the event page on Facebook.