Stage Set for 2nd Annual PRIDE in Saginaw Outhouse Race

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 803   By: Robert E Martin

15th January, 2015     0

With temperatures dipping and the snowfalls of winter well under way, The Friends of Hoyt Park are earnestly engaged in a series of events sponsored by Dow and Ice Sponsor  Catholic Family Credit Union and hosted by PRIDE in Saginaw entitled Bringing Back the Ice Again at Hoyt Park, which features Free Open Skating & Sledding, $2.00 skate rentals, and Free Hot Chocolate & Cookies served at the renovated warming house during all of their featured events.

Two years ago The Friends of Hoyt Park kicked off their inaugural season of activities, bringing the welcomed and long anticipated sight of winter ice action and thousands of people to this legendary community resource.  And this year the partnership of PRIDE and Friends of Hoty Park was formed to bring many new and significant activities planned to augment attendance and provide something fun and family oriented to do on these cold winter weekends, all leading up to the Saginaw Spirit Ice Blast Skate & Sledding and PRIDE’s 2nd Annual ‘Outhouse Race’ on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, Feb. 14th from Noon – 4 PM.

During the 1920’s when Hoyt Park was at its peak during the winter months, they would often  have record days where over 7,000 patrons enjoyed ice skating, sledding, and tobogganing in ONE DAY!   

Back then Hoyt Park was averaging 100,000 skaters every winter and throughout the decades it has remained the Crown Jewel of Saginaw’s parks and recreational programs, despite the fact that with large numbers of citizens leaving the city over the past 20 years, coupled with budget cuts, in 2003 the City could no longer afford to maintain Saginaw’s Parks and Recreation programs.  City baseball, softball, flag football and other recreational leagues, which had provided an outlet for the City’s residents throughout many generations, were suddenly no longer available. 

For five long years our city went without the use of Hoyt Park and it wasn’t until 2008 that concerned Saginaw citizens came up with the idea to create a group that would help resurrect and maintain the historic park.  It started when Chris Packard would often bring Christian Youth Groups to the park to play Baseball games.  Chris wanted to start a “grassroots” effort to make Hoyt Park available to all Saginaw children. 

Larry Brethauer had also contacted Chris offering his support to help get his Christian Youth Group started. Eventually, the four agreed to a meeting. Jonathan Pope and Eric Rutherford (who worked for the Saginaw YMCA at that time) also came to the meeting. Dick Garber, Tom Webb, Tom Mudd and Dan Kenel joined the others at that first meeting. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the group Friends of Hoyt Park was created and signed a 99-year lease with the city to bring the park back to life.

The Friends of Hoyt Park formed in 2008, initially setting its sights on bringing summer baseball back to the historic park. With the 1,800-square-foot warming house operational after a $400,000 renovation, the beauty of this recreational landmark was finally opened to the public two years ago.

According to Brethauer, during the 2013 opening of the park initial reaction exceeded expectations. “I believe we’re at the tip of the iceberg with Hoyt Park.  It isn’t unusual for us to have anywhere from 800 to 900 people skating and using the park for a six hour period each weekend, which is really good. This year we are looking to build those numbers into the thousands.”

Adds PRIDE’s Jeanne Conger, “For each weekend event this year during the four hours when the warming house is open we will be serving hot chocolate and cookies; and thanks to our sponsors, people are truly rediscovering the magic of this important community resource.” This year’s sponsors include Dow, PRIDE, The City of Saginaw, Meijer, Macdonald Broadcasting, Tom Braley, Catholic Federal, Hausbeck Pickles & Peppers, and HealthPlus.

The 2015 Scheduled is as follows:

Night Skate • Saturday January 17th from 4:00 – 7:00 PM.

School Skate • Saturday, January 24th. Sponsored by Ruth Ann Knapp. Noon – 4 PM

• Superbowl Skate • Saturday, January 31st. Sponsored by The Joe. Noon – 4 PM

Family Skate • Saturday February 7th • 12:00 noon – 4:00 PM. A great chance to bring the entire family out to the ice. Sponsored by Catholic Federal. You can also meet & skate with Saginaw Valley State University’s Men’s Hockey Team during this event from noon to 1:30 PM. They will also give free skate instruction. The warming house will be open from noon – 4 PM.

* Skate with the Saginaw Spirit • Saturday, February 8th • 3:00 – 4:00 PM. Warming House Open 2:30 – 4:30 PM. “We started this opportunity two years ago and the kids loved it,” notes Brethauer. “The Saginaw Spirit are idols to many young kids and skaters, so this is their chance to get out on the ice and ski with their heroes.”

Ice Blast Skate & Sledding & The Second Annual ‘Outhouse Race’ • Saturday February 14th • 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

According to Mike VanEck, who pulled together the inaugural presentation of this event last winter, the goal of the Annual Outhouse Race is to bring people down to the City of Saginaw through the creation of a family friendly event. “When the idea of an Outhouse race was first presented to us, it sounded a little crazy; but the more we looked at it we feel this has the potential to grow and draw people from all over the state.”

Each contestant is charged with constructing an Outhouse of minimum dimensions that are 3 ft. by 4 ft. by 6 ft. tall, with a minimum of three and maximum of five people on each team. “You can push, pull, or drag your Outhouse and it must be mounted on skis, plus you need a toilet contraption inside for one team member to ride, with toilet paper mounted inside,” he continues.

“One or two team members will be pushing or pulling, similar to the way a bobsled team gets a bobsled going.”

“We felt this was a great event to pursue and last year’s event well very well,” states Van Eck. “I’m from Grand Rapids originally and know people that drive across the state to watch this event, so it does have enormous potential.  We’ll be measuring out an area for racing and this should offer something fun and interesting that people can take individual ownership of and bring their creativity out. It should draw a lot of people to watch these crazy races.”

“When you drive by Hoyt Park, you don’t see the ice form the road, so with these events we hope to expose more people to the wonders of the park. As it gains traction it will draw people from outside the immediate Saginaw area.”

This year’s winner of the Out House race will receive 15 tickets to the Eagles Nest and Pizza & Pop compliments of the Saginaw Spirit, along with a $300.00 cash prize.  Second prize is $150.00; and $50.00 will go to the Third place winner. Plus all winners will receive a case of toilet paper compliments of Absolute Building Maintenance.

Races will begin at 11 am and registration is at 9 am at Hoyt Park. The outhouse can be built out of materials ranging from wood, cardboard, or whatever makes sense; however NO GLASS can be used.  You need to install some type of toilet seat and a roll of toilet paper and the outhouse must be mounted on skis and be able to move down the track. Minimum age to enter is 18 years old with parental authorization.  Any questions and people interested in entering should contact Mike VanEck at by February 1st! You can also phone him at 989-992-3053.

“Many people ask if they can go skate at the park at other times than when we stage these events, and the park is definitely open to skating, but we only have the warming house open during these events because we are a volunteer based organization,” notes Conger.

While the Friends of Hoyt Park do maintain the ice, they only guarantee a maintained rink during these staged events, seeing as the size of the rink is that of three-and-a-half hockey rinks. “It’s a huge ice rink,” states Brethauer. “We need 980 feet of fire hose that we hook up and start laying down water with and it takes three or four guys at least two to three hours to groom the ice. Plus if it gets too cold you can’t put water down, so we have to plow the snow off first and then tractor and broom the residue off in order to buff it.”  Presently Friends of Hoyt Park has a core of a half dozen volunteers to maintain the ice, but according to Brethauer can always use more help and fresh volunteers.

For this core nucleus of community activists that got Hoyt Park back to shape, the benefits have been immensely rewarding. “Anytime you have a passion and come up with an idea the first thing you get is a group of naysayers that say it can’t be done,” reflects Brethauer. “But people will definitely support something if it has value; and there is a vein of emotion going back to great great memories from this park that are securing it as an asset for the future.”


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