CHIditarod: Chicago’s Own Philanthropic Costume Contest, Bar Crawl and Shopping Cart Race

Saturday, March 7, Ukrainian Village and Wicker Park will be overrun by grown adults wearing costumes, pushing shopping carts full of non-perishable foods racing to and from different bars. This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of CHIditarod, Chicago’s urban Iditarod and the world’s larges mobile food drive: a food drive, team race, costume contest and bar crawl, all wrapped up in one chaotic and entirely unique fundraising party.


Racers costume themselves (and their cart!) as characters from Up. Photo Credit:

Inspired by Iditarods in New York City and Boston, CHIditarod is not the first to substitute a sled and huskies with a shopping cart and people. But what differentiates CHIditarod from other urban Iditarods is its philanthropic angle.Participating teams of five racers each dress in outlandish costumes and deck out their shopping carts before the race, hoping to snag such prizes as “Best in Show,” “Best Art Cart” and “Best Use of Duct Tape.” In past years, teams have dressed as everything from Soviet military officials to characters from Space Jam.

Meagan Mueller, CHIditarod’s media liaison, describes the costumes as part of what makes CHIditarod such an innovative take on philanthropic events. Her personal favorite group costume incorporated local horror TV legend Svengoolie, rubber chickens and a shopping cart decorated to look like a casket. “I was so tickled!” Mueller laughed.

Each team of racers is required to donate at least 65 pounds of non-perishable food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Last year, CHIditarod donated over 21,000 pounds of food. In addition, racers and supporters can donate to the CHIditarod Foundation, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to supporting local nonprofits that alleviate hunger and promote sustainable, healthy food. Last year, the CHIditarod Foundation donated funds to seven local nonprofits including the Garfield Park Community Council and Centro Sin Fronteras.

Mueller views the combination of a shopping cart race and a food drive as a no-brainer: “Urban Iditarods already have grocery carts. It’s just natural that you put groceries in the carts. Grocery carts, groceries. It goes hand in hand.”

Although registration to race in the event is now closed, interested parties can watch the race from the sidelines and bring cans of food for donation. The race begins Saturday at 12:30pm at the corner of Wolcott Avenue and Hubbard Street. According to the CHIditarod website, “YES, the starting line is EPIC.”    

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