In 1978, then-Mayor Leo Rasmussen was looking for a way to attract visitors to Nome. His brainchild, the wacky (and exceedingly clean) Great Bathtub Race, has no equal anywhere in the world. In this fun Labor Day event, teams line up at High Noon and prepare to race about 100 yards down Front Street.
Each team must have five members – one to “bathe” in the tub full of water and copious bubbles, while four others propel it in a mad dash down Nome’s most famous street. Racers wear the official Bathtub Race costume, consisting of a large brimmed hat and suspenders (frequently fashioned from duct tape). Spectators are known to start the fun early by tossing water balloons at the athletes as they warm up.
The tubs are mounted on wheels, and must be at least 4 feet long. Beyond that, there is no consistency, with teams doing their best to engineer an aerodynamic vehicle that will fly down the street – even when full of water and a bather.
At the finish line, the tub must still have 10 gallons of water in it, and racers must have their requisite items – bar of soap, towel, washcloth, and bathmat.
The winning prize? Bragging rights, and possession of a most unusual trophy: a figurine of Kermit and Miss Piggy taking a bath. (It’s passed on each year to the next winner).
If nothing else, note locals, this event proves that Nome residents do take baths – at least once a year.