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With the invention of indoor plumbing, outhouses have mostly become a thing of the past. Yet many frontier cities in the United States still hold an affection for the wooden sanctuary, paying it a special kind of homage each year.

Outhouse races, held in towns and cities across the western US, let teams compete in their own portable potties, complete with four sides, a roof, a toilet seat and even a roll of toilet paper. Teams, which can range from three to five people, must pull or push their homemade outhouse down a city street and must also have at least one rider on the seat inside.

Many races are held to stave off cabin fever in the dead of winter, such as the longest running race in Concully, Washington in January, and the competition held at the Fur Rondy Festival in Anchorage, Alaska, in March. Because of snow, both races require that the outhouses must be mounted on skis.

But the ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado, opts to have their outhouse races as part of the Kingdom Days history festival, held this year held on 15 June. Outhouses are mounted on wheels and racers push the portable potties to the finish line to compete for the “Gold Throne”, “Silver Moon”, and “Bronze Bucket” trophies, along with accompanying cash prizes.

The town of Virginia City, Nevada, is slated to hold the World Championship Outhouse Races on 5 and 6 October. Last year’s competition proved to be an upset, with newcomer and motorcycle-themed “The Pot Rod” beating out previous winners “The Classic Crapper” and “The Urinator”. The bright purple, 1920s-themed “The Flapper Crapper” took home the title of most unique.

While the biggest prizes are usually given to the groups with the fastest times, the festivals also usually offer at least one prize for the most creative outhouse. Teams rise to the challenge by decorating their commodes to look like everything from a jail to a toxic waste dumping facility. Almost as creative as the outhouses themselves, team names take toilet humour to the next level, with entries including “Constipation Proclamation”, “Deadliest Dump”, and “Commando Commode”.

Even those that do not take home the throne can rest easy knowing there is no better place than an outhouse to wipe the slate clean for next year.

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