Snow will fly through the air and heads will turn — possibly in disbelief — at the funniest, strangest winter sports event of the year: the Nemo 500 Outhouse Race.

The 11th annual race will take place at the Nemo Guest Ranch on Saturday, and will be paired with a chili cook-off. The event is partnered with Naja Shriners, who sponsor an auction in between the races.

The event began as a way to break up winter monotony and gradually became a Black Hills staple, with Nemo Guest Ranch owners Troy and Willie Shaye noting that it gets larger every year.

"It was very big last year, I'd say probably around 2,000 people," Willie said. "It always depends on the weather, but people always come out and enjoy the races and the camaraderie."

The rules of the Outhouse Race are entertainingly complicated: the outhouses can only be human powered, with no electric, solar, or gas-powered assistance. Outhouses must have four walls, a roof, a doorway and at least one seat with a hole.

Any number and size of wheels may be used, but the outhouses must be a minimum of 9 square feet at the base, with a maximum width of 6 feet including grasping or pushing devices and a minimum height of 5 feet. There must be handles, seat belts and safety equipment.

Devices for pushing and or pulling may be made of anything except ropes and must be secured. The outhouse may be made of anything but glass and must be structurally sound. Each entry must have a name on the side of the structure, with sponsor names displayed anywhere on the outside.

During the race, there is a pit stop mid-race for a "fire drill," during which each team member must race around the outhouse three times and the rider must switch places with one of the pushers. Each team member must place a color-coded toilet paper roll on a color-coded plunger.

Finally, there are three age divisions: 12-25, 26-45 and 46 and over. Those without a racing outhouse may have one provided, and a team must consist of two to five people.

Each year sees more teams participating, and teams are encouraged to dress up and decorate their outhouse.

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"We have prizes for first through third place for each division, but we also give a trophy for who came the farthest and a double-decker award for the two-story outhouse," Troy said. "And people get to vote on who they think has the funniest and best costumes."

Children who are too young to participate in the Outhouse Races can still get in on the fun with the shovel races, in which kids in teams of two race with one sitting in a No. 12 scoop shovel, the other taking hold of the handle as they race to a marker.

"We wanted this to be a family event, and we thought this would be a good way to have some fun with the kids," Troy said. "The kids all get a medallion, and it's free to participate."

Kids can also use the Zorb Ball brought by Big Chair Pub and Pizza. 

"We started this as a way for neighbors to have some goofy fun, and it kept growing," Troy said. "What really brings them out here is that it's just true, honest, family get-together fun."

To sign up to participate in the Nemo 500 Outhouse Race or for more information, visit nemo500.com orcall 605-578-2708.

Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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