For the premiere episode of Kentucky Life’s 25th season, the show took a look back at a segment from 1998 featuring the Great Outhouse Blowout, an annual event in Casey and Boyle counties.
The host of the outhouse race is Penn’s Store, a tiny convenience store near Gravel Switch that has been in operation since the mid-1800s. And while outhouses might not be as universally admired as a pastoral landscape or hardworking farmers, the organizers of the race say the humble buildings are a timeless symbol of rural life.
“I first thought about doing the outhouse race and we questioned if we should perhaps move it to a more metropolitan area to make it more easily available for more folks to attend,” says Jeanne Penn Lane, Special Events Coordinator of Penn’s Store. “The overwhelming response was, ‘Don’t move it! Keep it where it is.’ And so it has remained here. It seems that those that do come just really enjoy coming out to the country.”
On the first Saturday in October, competitors from near and far bring their outhouses-on-wheels to Gravel Switch. The vehicles are entirely human-powered, with racers pushing their homemade constructions in a race to the finish. Teams choose a theme and dress and decorate their structure accordingly. Preliminary heats eliminate the slower teams while the fastest move on to the final rounds.
“Outhouses make people laugh,” says Connie DeNault of the Outhouse Preservation Society. “And we need more laughter in the world. Fun and laughter: that’s what outhouses are. And outhouse races are fun. I just wish everybody could experience at least one.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #418, which originally aired on October 2, 1999. It was rebroadcast as part of episode #2501, which aired on October 5, 2019. Watch the full episode.