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Outhouse racers brave snow squalls Sunday in Middle Grove

Outhouse racers brave snow squalls Sunday in Middle Grove

Community gathers for popular annual event organized by Tinney's Tavern.
Outhouse racers brave snow squalls Sunday in Middle Grove
A team attempts to make its way across Lake Desolation during Sunday’s Outhouse Races.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

Families, snowmobiles and homemade outhouses dotted the ice that covered Lake Desolation on Sunday for Tinney's Tavern Outhouse Races, a hugely popular annual event in which participants construct a hybrid sled-outhouse and race them across the ice.

The outhouse sleds must be pushed or pulled by team members during the race. At Sunday afternoon’s event in Middle Grove, there were eight teams, two fewer than last year's 10 teams.

The heavy snow, organizers said, caused some teams to back out at the last minute.

Teams could have three to five members, with one who must be seated in the outhouse during the race. To participate, the structure must have three walls and a toilet seat. 

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The sled course is about 30 yards out and back, with a full U-turn in the middle between orange cones. 

The Outhouse Races function as a popular community gathering that has been a local tradition since 1986.

Often teams come back year after year to participate. Prizes included Tinney's Tavern merchandise and gift certificates. Teams could take home first, second or third place.

"It's always a great time. It's a good way to get the community together," manager Erika Fass said as she worked inside the tavern prior to the race starting.

The event is a large one for Tinney's, which opened at 10 a.m. the morning of the race. By noon, both the bar and the lake outside were packed with people.

Photos: Images from Sunday’s outhouse races in Middle Grove

This year, Fass said, was even more exciting due to nearby trails having enough snow on them to be open.

"Even with the storm, people are going to come. It's a good way to get the community together," Fass said, noting that each year at least 1,000 people come out for the event.

Volunteers helped with the day's activities, and law enforcement officers from the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office were also on the scene, directing drivers across the slick and icy roads to the races.

While the tavern itself was packed with customers seeking solace from the bitter cold outside, the lake was as big an attraction for others.

Roars of snowmobile engines pierced the air outside as drivers whipped across the ice on the lake in the freshly fallen snow, and dozens of groups tailgated on the ice waiting for the races to start.

Parents pulled children on sleds across the ice, holding styrofoam cups filled with hot chocolate with one hand and hot dogs purchased from stands by the tavern in the other.

Tinney's Tavern owner Kevin Joyce was also on the ice all day and, when the time came for the first heat of races around 1 p.m., grabbed people's attention with a megaphone.

Watchers cleared the race track and fell into two lines, one on each side of the track, and prepared for the outhouse sleds to take off.

While some outhouses toppled over immediately, others sailed smoothly down the ice and around the bend, with runners sprinting, pulling and pushing as hard as they could.

"The Skidmarks stayed true to their name," Joyce said as a large outhouse sled named "Skidmarks" slid all over the ice and left long dragging marks behind it in its rush to the finish line.

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