The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition…this is the Great Bathtub Race! That is how Jim McKay probably would have introduced Nome, Alaska’s annual Great Bathtub Race if he were still with us…and had ever heard of the race.
Although it never appeared on Wide World of Sports, the Great Bathtub Race has been a Labor Day tradition in Nome since the 1970’s. Kentucky has its derby. New York City has its marathon. None of these compare to Nome’s Great Bathtub Race.
The race was the brainchild of former mayor Leo Rasmussen who created the event to attract visitors to his town. The idea of the race is simple. Contestants must push or pull bathtubs on wheels from the U.S. Post Office building down Nome’s main street to the finish line in front of City Hall; which also happens to be the old finish line for Alaska’s other famous race, the Iditarod. Unlike the Iditarod, however, the trek is only about 100 yards. To make things more interesting, teams must wear funny hats and suspenders and there must be at least 10 gallons of water left in the bottom of the tub at the finish.
Motorized tubs are prohibited. This eliminates jetted clawfoot tubs from the competition but otherwise there is no restriction on the construction of the bathtub. Built-in cast iron bathtubs are legal as are acrylic leg tubs. Leo Rasmussen prefers to race a cast iron clawfoot tub; although he’s only won the race once in the Great Bathtub Race’s storied history.
The winner of the race is rewarded with a trophy and, of course, the thrill of victory. There are no losers in the Great Bathtub Race but a year of ridicule from the winning team is sure to provide agony in defeat. When the race is concluded, the tubs are exchanged for newer, more efficient models in the Cash for Clunkers program. If your bathtub is a clunker, consider a new clawfoot tub or cast iron built-in tub from Shop 4 Classics. And enjoy your Labor Day!