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World Championship Running of the Tubs in Hot Springs National Park

The Judging of the Tubs will begin on Friday, June 3, 2022, at 6:00 pm. Then the Running of the Tubs on World Famous Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Arkansas, will be held the following day, Saturday, June 4th at 9:00 am with awards to follow.

The races will begin from the starting line in front of the Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa at the north end of the famed bathhouses along Central Avenue.

Laura Miller, Hot Springs National Park Superintendent stated, “We know tossing water balloons at participants – and other spectators – has long been part of the experience. However, a single balloon ingested by a fish, turtle, or bird can kill them. This is why they are not allowed in the national park. The Running of the Tubs takes place right over Hot Springs Creek, and all that balloon debris goes from the street to the creek (which is filled with fish, turtles, and birds), and ends up in Lake Hamilton, a popular fishing spot for many. We hope spectators will join us in using refillable Super Soakers or other water-soaking devices to save our wildlife and also to have better aim and distance when soaking Tub Race contestants”.

To respect and protect the National Park and waterways, throwing of water balloons by spectators is discouraged and the use of Super Soakers to spray the contestants is encouraged.

The bathtub races, which began in 2005, were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. This year’s event will be the 15th running of the event.

The family of the late Stueart Pennington will once again lead the Parade of the Tubs from Hill Wheatley Plaza to the starting line at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 5. The Running of the Tubs is named in honor of Pennington, a downtown merchant who advocated tirelessly for the establishment of bathtub races to emphasize Hot Springs’ reputation as a thermal bathing mecca whose motto for many decades was “We Bathe The World.”

The annual Judging of the Tubs will be held Friday, June 4, at, 6 p.m. at Hill Wheatley Plaza.

“The added attraction is that this year’s Running of the Tubs will help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Hot Springs National Park,” Solleder said. “The Park is doing a year-long centennial celebration, and we’re proud to be able to contribute an element of fun to the Centennial. What could be more fun than crazily costumed teams pushing regulation bathtubs down Central Avenue in front of Bathhouse Row?”

“The Running of the Tubs is another of the great family-friendly celebrations that are so popular with our residents and visitors,” Solleder said. “The crowds lining Bathhouse Row and joining in the wacky fun by shooting Super Soakers at the racers have been growing every year as word spreads about this super free event.”

The incredibly arcane (and endlessly fluid) rules for the races include:

  1. Any authentic bathtub (old or new) may be entered. Tubs must be no smaller than forty-eight (48) inches long and twenty-four (24) inches wide.
  2. The wheels on the tub must be no bigger than thirty (30) inches diameter mounted on axles no more than forty-four (44) inches wide. Casters or rollers are not allowed.
  3. No motors or mechanical devices can be used to push the tub. The four members of the team, not in the tub, must power the tub the entire length of the race.
  4. Each team must consist of five (5) members: a captain, who must ride in the tub; a Bath Towel Attendant; a Bath Mat Attendant; a Soap Attendant; a Loofah Mitt Attendant. All team members must be over eighteen (18) years of age and must sign a liability release form prior to the start of the race.
  5. During The Running of the Tubs, each team member must keep one hand on the tub at all times. In addition, the attendants must hold in their other hands, their particular item. Example: The Soap Attendant must keep one hand on the tub and hold a bar of soap in the other hand. The Loofah Mitt Attendant must wear the loofah mitt on one hand, and hold onto the tub with the other hand. No exceptions to this rule! If any team member drops his/her item, the tub must stop until that team member retrieves his/her item. The team must then make one complete circle of the tub before the team can restart the tub. If any team member lets go of the tub for any reason, the tub must stop and all attendants must change positions before the tub restarts.
  6. Each team crossing the finish line must still have in its possession: the bar of soap, the bath mat, the loofah mitt and the bath towel – or the team will be disqualified.
  7. The bathtub must be full of water at the start of the race and have at least 10 gallons of water left in the tub at the finish line. If the Judges find less than 10 gallons of water left in the tub – that team will be disqualified. The Judges will have the final say on how the volume of water is measured. Anyone who argues with a Judge will never be allowed to bathe on Central Avenue again, or until another Arkansan is elected President of the United States of America, whichever comes first!
  8. The four team members pushing the tubs must wear hats of some size and shape, and also some suspenders.
  9. Super Soakers, costumes, and race strategies – everything goes in this contest. In fact, it is encouraged!
  10. The Running of the Tubs Judges will have the final say in ALL AREAS of The Running Of The Tubs. They have the final word on everything!
  11. The Downtown Association of Hot Springs will announce the names of the Running of the Tubs Judges at a later date.
  12. The winning team in each division will receive a traveling winner’s trophy, The Pennington Cup – the highest honor in bathtub racing, that they will get to display until next year’s contest. Each individual team member will receive an individual prize. Three additional trophies will be given, one for the Most Original Tub, one for the Most Spirited Tub, and one for the Best Overall Tub.
  13. All teams must have their bathtub in place in the plaza area of the Hill Wheatley Plaza by 6 p.m. on Friday, June 4. The Plaza Area will have open access for each team all day on Friday, which will allow teams to put the finishing touches on their bathtubs.
  14. Be assured – there will be more rules!! Participants are subject to the whim of the Judges at all times!!!!!!!
  15. Additional Rules for bonus points and leads.
    1. No Thongs.
    2. A flag or pennant hoisted on a minimum three-foot pole and attached to the tub.
    3. Extra points for Bribes.
    4. “Head starts” may be given according to the Judges’ mood at any given time.

“The races began 16 years ago as the Steuart Pennington Running of the Tubs, and Mr. Pennington will still be honored as the motivating force behind the event with the awarding of the Steuart Pennington Cup to the winning teams,” Solleder said. “Mr. Pennington was a long-time downtown merchant who pushed for the bathtub races to acknowledge Hot Springs’ rich history as a world-renowned thermal-bathing destination.”

“Arkansas hosts many unique, colorful and wacky events — a Turkey Drop in Yellville, Goat Fest, the World Championship Rotary Tiller Races, World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, cardboard boat races — but there is no event that is soaked in more fun than the Stueart Pennington World Championship Running of the Tubs in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas,” he said.

June 2, 2021

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