After the pandemic pulled the plug on last year's race, the 2021 Stueart Pennington World Championship Running of the Tubs will include some familiar matchups and some new faces, according to the lineup released by Visit Hot Springs.
The races will begin at 9 a.m. June 5 on Central Avenue in front of the Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa at the north end of Bathhouse Row. ESPN Radio and PBS Television will have crews on hand to cover the event.
To respect and protect the national park and waterways, throwing of water balloons by spectators is discouraged and the use of Super Soaker-type waterguns to spray the contestants is encouraged, according to a news release from Visit Hot Springs.
The bathtub races, which began in 2005, were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's event will be the 15th running of the races.
Key matchups in the final 2021 lineup include:
• The reigning champions of the Traditional Division, Bathhouse Soapery, the presenting sponsor of the races, will try to defend its title. The Riser Ford team, whose quest for a fourth title was drained in 2019 by the Bathhouse team, looks to reclaim the title.
• The Austin Weirdos from Austin, Texas, will return to defend its Modified Division World Championship. The team will face fierce competition from the Hale Entertainment team, which pirated its way to an "impressive debut" in 2019. New this year will be a team of rangers from Hot Springs National Park, which will be competing to help celebrate the park's 100th birthday.
• The Stock Tub Division pits Cyclists against Runners. The Trail Advocacy Advocates of the Ouachitas (TACO) will defend its world title against The Spa Pacers.
• The Hot Springs Fire Department and the Hot Springs Police Department will renew their no-holds-barred rivalry in the Battle of the Badge. The Fire Department was victorious in this fierce rivalry in 2019.
The complete lineup includes:
• Modified: 5 Guys One Tub (The Tub Thumpers); Austin Weirdos (Troop 512); Hale Entertainment; Hot Springs Police Department (The Hot Springs SWAT Team); Hot Springs Fire Department; Level Up Appliances (Level UP); Hot Springs National Park (Bathers of the Lost Park); and Oaklawn Rotary.
• Traditional: Visit Hot Springs (Hogwarts Express); Window Mart (Gangsters); O'Reilly; Riser Ford; Bathhouse Soapery & Caldarium; Healthstar Physicians of Hot Springs; and The Waters Hotel.
• Stock: Spa Pacers, Trail Advocacy Coalition of the Ouachitas (Team TACO).
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. 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 at 6 p.m. on June 4 at Hill Wheatley Plaza.
"We missed the 2020 Running of The Tubs Championships because of the COVID-19 pandemic," VHS Marketing Director Bill Solleder said in the release. "But all the winners from 2019 are going to be back for the resumption of this fun-filled celebration on June 5."
"The added attraction," he said, "is that this year's Running of The Tubs will help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Hot Springs National Park. The park is doing a yearlong 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?"
Solleder said the races began 16 years ago as the Stueart Pennington Running of the Tubs, and Pennington will still be honored as the motivating force behind the event with the awarding of the Stueart Pennington Cup to the winning teams.
"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.