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Yes, New York’s third annual Idiotarod—a mad-cap parody of Alaska’s Iditarod race using shopping carts instead of dog sleds—took place Saturday, despite threats and intimidation from the party-pooping NYPD.
(See “How a Few Idiots Outfoxed the NYPD,” a Voice Slide Show.)
Some speculated the cops might put a crimp in the fun because of last week’s No Pants incident, when police arrested six pranksters for dropping trou in the subway.
Sure enough, the night before the race, cops showed up at Monster Island, an independent art and performance space in Williamsburg where the Idiotarod was scheduled to start, and shut down a completely unrelated party for a comic-book show.
Cops nailed the Monster Island folks with some tickets and warned them not to let the race happen there.
“They said they’d show up with 250 cops with paddy wagons and arrest everyone,” says Idiotarod organizer Mo Flaherty.
So the Idiots switched the start to Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, and, tipped off that police were monitoring the website, set up a phone tree to spread the word to racers, most of whom got the message in time. “There were a lot of cabs with shopping carts going from Williamsburg to Fort Greene,” says co-organizer Jeff Stark, who runs the Nonsense NYC listserv.
Park officials didn’t take kindly to the hordes of costumed racers pulling carts across the grass. Officials closed down the registration table, which everyone took as a cue to start the race.
More than 700 racers and fans charged down sidewalks, spilling onto the street, pursued by a mounting detail of chirping squad cars, police vans, and black sedans.
Cops shut down the first checkpoint—a parking lot in DUMBO—then tried to block racers from accessing the Manhattan Bridge.
“They had a line of about 8 to 10 cops standing across the bike pathway entrance” reports Oscar, a 31-year-old music producer from Brooklyn who ran with a crew dressed up like the bad guys from G.I. Joe and pulled a cart that featured an actual fire-spitting snake sculpted from Bondo.
But faced with a crowd of rowdy, beer-addled racers bottlenecked at the base of the bridge, police relented and waved them through. “By then, everyone was piling up on the grassy hill leading up to the bridge, so I think they decided in order to keep the throngs from spilling into the street, they’d better let us through,” Oscar says.
Police on the Manhattan side were far more accommodating and opened up a lane of traffic for racers as they rumbled toward the second checkpoint, The Delancey bar off Clinton Street, then on to the finish line in the East River Park.
But some of the boozing contestants were ticketed for drinking en route, including the Barback Mountain team, whose keg was seized at the base of the bridge.
“The sad part is, we dragged this keg all the way into Manhattan,” complained one of the drunken cowboys. “We would have gone a lot faster if they’d taken it off us in Brooklyn.”
Also ticketed under the city’s open container law were the Screaming Mimes. “I’m doing a cop and I still got a summons,” groused Mary Riley of Chelsea, who said her boyfriend is a police officer.
Most racers were far more concerned with fending off sabotage efforts from competing crews, such as dropping banana peels and marbles, or setting up a fake checkpoint in Dumbo that foiled even some of the race organizers.
It looked like every Williamsburg hipster and then some was partying at the finish line at the East River Amphitheater. Members of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra pomped and romped on the bandshell stage, as the ketchup-wielding “Killah Condimentzz” had a food fight.
Below them, a father and son crew from Northport, Long Island was pelting the crowd with (fake) shit-stained underwear flung from a giant slingshot strapped to their cart.
“Shaving cream, lesbians, slingshots of poop, what’s not to like?” shrugged Dan Sheehan, a 50-something physicist, sporting a pair of briefs on his head, as he and his teenage sons loaded another wad of underwear into the contraption. “This is a family tradition now. The bar has been lowered.”
In the bleachers, a group of undercovers snickered.