The Trenary Outhouse Classic: A U.P. Original

IMG_20140222_145847945The village of Trenary is located about halfway between Marquette and Gladstone, just east of the junction of U.S. Highway 41 and M-67. It’s a small commercial outpost in the heart of the central U.P. that serves a broad area of rolling farmsteads and old logging camps. Trenary’s most famous export is undoubtedly Trenary Toast, a homegrown bread that’s baked in the old Finnish rusk tradition.

There’s a lot of history in Trenary, and it’s a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the old U.P. These days, it’s better known for an event that encapsulates the work hard, play hard spirit of the “new U.P.” We’re talking about the Trenary Outhouse Classic, a two-decade-old tradition that brings revelers, craftspeople and local celebrities together for a day of creativity, physical activity and merriment – mostly just merriment, actually – on Trenary’s main drag. It’s held on the last Saturday of February, so it can be chilly, but the infectious atmosphere and free-flowing libations keep participants toasty.


Schedule of Events

The 2014 edition of the Trenary Outhouse Classic was a smashing success. Here’s a look at how it went down:

  • 12-6 a.m. Locals with earthmoving equipment demolish snowbanks to create a 500 foot long track down the middle of T Road, Trenary’s main drag.  To keep the outhouses steady, they smooth out the snow in the middle of the track and shape it into berms on either side. Of course, this doesn’t stop out-of-control outhouses from veering into the crowd!
  • 10 a.m. Enthusiastic racers begin showing up at the Trenary Outhouse Races, Inc. headquarters at the corner of M-67 and T Road. Each pair of registrants – it takes two to push an outhouse, after all! – gets two T-shirts, two rolls of autographed toilet paper, two souvenir license plates and two bumper stickers.
  • 12 p.m. The festivities begin! Guests can listen to musical entertainment, peruse various trade booths and enjoy plenty of socializing before the race’s official kickoff.
  • 1 p.m. Registration closes. If you’re not registered by now, you’re out of luck.
  • 2 p.m. Races begin. Once the main event starts, things move pretty quickly. When one racing pair finishes, another quickly moves to the start line to take their place. This year, the event wrapped up by 4 p.m.


Categories and Notable Entrants

To ensure fairness for all participants, the event’s organizers group participants into multiple categories. The “Squirts” group includes racers under the age of 11; they run on a shorter track. 18-35 year olds belong to the “Stinkers” group; “Da Sharts” includes 36-49 year olds; and the “Old Farts” crowd includes everyone aged 50 and older. There’s also a separate group for bars, who sponsor specific teams (racers don’t have to be employees of the bars).

Anyone who’s willing to race an outhouse down an icy track in front of thousands (no joke – last year’s event drew a crowd of 4,000) of screaming, slightly intoxicated fans deserves praise, but some of this year’s entrants really stood out. The winners of the “Most Humorous Outhouse” award, for example, were two scantily dressed guys who pushed a wrecking ball-shaped outhouse. Their entry’s name? You guessed it: “Wrecking Ball.” Others had less-than-appropriate names, most notably “Let Your Bowels Howl” and “Poop on Cancer.”

Why Make the Trip?

If you couldn’t make it to this year’s Outhouse Classic, never fear. There’s sure to be an event next year, and the year after, and the year after that…you get the idea. With sponsorships from local patrons like Trenary Toast and the Trenary Lions Club as well as nationally known brands like Dr. McGuillicuddy’s, the event has tremendous support from far and wide. The event’s public concessions stand, which sells $5 turkey legs the size of a small child, funds the Trenary Volunteer Fire Department. Other local vendors are on hand from year to year, too, including a handful of local food trucks, Jasper’s (a jam and maple syrup maker), a crafty couple that sells all manner of animal pelts and more!IMG_20140222_145945965

Oh, and we should mention the most “rewarding” part of the Trenary Outhouse Classic: the raffle drawings at the end of the event. This year, the race’s organizers handed out $700, $500 and $300 prizes to three lucky spectators, and one adult racer got his hands on a $150 bonus. We can’t promise that you’ll have the same luck, but it may just be worth the trek out to Trenary to try your hand.


Brian Martucci is a Marquette-based writer with a passion for food, beer, and the great outdoors. Maybe not in that order.