All of us have had those unfortunate incidents arise when it becomes necessary to run to the “outhouse.” That’s really no fun at all! It’s a lot more fun to let the outhouse come to you, and that’s exactly what you can do at the Great Outhouse Blowout taking place at Penn’s Store in Gravel Switch, Kentucky on Saturday, September 14. Well, sort of. The highlight of the Great Outhouse Blowout is a series of “outhouse races” where teams use only foot power to propel their “outhouse racers” down the home stretch (the driveway into Penn’s Store) and across the finish line if they can. Each outhouse racer carries a faux outhouse, usually made of cardboard or other lightweight materials and set atop a wheeled chassis and they’ve been known to wreck in the scramble to win the race. Racers come from all over the country to participate even though winners pretty much only leave with just a trophy and bragging rights. It’s all in good fun, but the outhouse races are not all of the fun at the Great Outhouse Blowout.
Penn’s Store is, by appearance, a humble-looking general store that’s off the beaten path where locals purchase essentials between trips into town and where visitors can buy souvenirs and snacks. What Penn’s really is though is a treasure of Americana that’s steeped in history. Penn’s has the distinction of being the oldest continuously-operated store owned by one family in all of Kentucky. Currently owned by 5th generation Penn family member Jeanne Penn Lane, Penn’s Store once housed the first post office in the area. Lane is a fount of information about the history of the store and the area and she’s always happy to regale visitors with stories from the past and present, some quite humorous (ask her about Chickie Bare-Butt!) The whole outhouse thing came about by necessity; the store itself has no restroom so when an outhouse was built in 1992 Lane, who previously worked as a country music songwriter, got an idea of how to make a big deal out of it. Songwriter and singer Billy Edd Wheeler had a hit record with the outhouse-honoring “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back” (Wheeler also wrote “Jackson” for Johnny Cash) and Lane got him to come to Gravel Switch for the dedication of the Penn’s privy, where he performed along with his guitar-pickin’ buddy, Chet Atkins. And from there all the other outhouse hoopla developed.
This year the Great Outhouse Blowout will feature a concert with the Back Street Band, Dawn Osborn (Lane’s daughter) and Cheyenne. There’ll be a car, truck and motorcycle show, a parade, an “outhouse bachelor” contest for the girls, an ugly legs contest and a bean eating contest. Then there’ll be lots of booths selling produce, arts and crafts, offering face painting and more. And to put the icing on the, uh, cake, the first 200 cars will get a free roll of toilet paper!
For more info on the Great Outhouse Blowout, visit the Penn’s Store website.