Outhouse race is highlight of foliage festival

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The "Potty Princess Pageant" is Friday night, followed by a day of fun on Saturday.


INDEPENDENCE — Outhouse races on Main Street, a pageant of potty princesses and fabulous fall foliage highlight Independence’s 29th Annual Mountain Foliage Festival and Grand Privy Races on Saturday.
This unique event, launched in the early 1980s by then-town manager Darrell Ward, draws quite a bit of attention to Independence.
The festival starts at 9 a.m. with arts and crafts vendors and bluegrass music at the Historic 1908 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 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. At 7 p.m., both female and male contestants will compete for this beauty contest, age 15 and up.
“This is a spoof on the traditional beauty contest,” says Lundgren. “There are some real interesting characters that compete in the contest.”