Outhouse Races Highlight Independence's Fall Foliage Festival

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Enjoy Virginia’s official state grand privy race and the fall foliage in the Blue Ridge.

“We’ve had some real doozies over the years,” says Lundgren, “like the guy in the two-piece pink negligee with diapers and a mustache.”

Outhouse races on Main Street, a pageant of potty princesses and fabulous fall foliage highlight Independence’s 28th annual Mountain Foliage Festival and Grand Privy Races on Saturday, Oct. 9.

This unique event, launched in the early 1980s by then town manager Darrell Ward, draws quite a bit of attention to Independence. The town, with its population of 971, is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, not far from the North Carolina line.

The festival starts at 9 a.m. with arts & crafts vendors and bluegrass music at the historic courthouse. There are kids’ activities like pony rides, pumpkin painting and inflatable slides.

However, the real action begins at 11 a.m. with the first heat of the double-elimination grand privy races. The races, which take place every 20 minutes, feature teams racing pimped-up outhouses past cheering throngs on Main Street.

“Each team has two people in the front, two in the back and one in the hole,” says event coordinator Carol Lundgren. “We have four pages of official rules for the outhouses and they must have wheels. Some people put brakes on them, some don’t.”

During the races, teams must perform a “fire drill” in which the person in the outhouse comes out and is replaced, with everybody else rotating a spot. Local Democratic and Republican parties race each other, with the winner believed to have a leg up in upcoming national elections.

In 2008, the races were deemed by the Virginia House of Delegates as the official grand privy races for the state of Virginia. Meanwhile, the autumn leaves are usually at their peak color.

“Independence is located in Grayson County and has beautiful fall foliage,” Lundgren says. “There’s Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia, and the New River Trail State Park. Point Lookout Mountain, just north of town, is always gorgeous, and many folks go up to Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain on Sunday.”

A special treat for those who arrive Friday evening is the Potty Princess Pageant. A spoof on traditional beauty contests, this pageant features female and male contestants, age 15 and up.

“We’ve had some real doozies over the years,” says Lundgren, “like the guy in the two-piece pink negligee with diapers and a mustache.”

For info on the festival, call (276) 773-3507 or visit http://trueblueridge.wordpress.com.

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Brandon McCann
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