Today's Paper State News Hutchinson 2024 LEARNS Guide Newsletters Opinion Sports Obits Games Archive Notices Core Values

Annual event has been renamed for greater acclaim

by Sam Pierce | May 27, 2018 at 12:00 a.m.
Bill Solleder, special events manager for Visit Hot Springs, poses with this year’s bathtub for Visit Hot Springs. The annual event, which will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, has been renamed Steuart Pennington’s World Championship Running of the Tubs.

HOT SPRINGS — One of Steuart Pennington’s most famous sayings was “We bathe the world.” With that in mind, the annual Steuart Pennington Running of the Tubs has been rebranded to the Steuart Pennington’s World Championship Running of the Tubs.

“As soon as we rebranded it, ESPN Radio jumped on board, so as soon as we changed the name, we got attention,” said Bill Solleder, special events manager for Visit Hot Springs. “It is a fun event and kind of quirky, but in its essence, it is a sporting event.

“I think if we continue to brand it as the world championships, we might get more entries from all around the country, maybe even the world. And then maybe we will go live on ESPN television.

“Anything to attract attention to Hot Springs.”

Steuart, who died in 2005, was a staple of downtown Hot Springs, and his brother, Jim, said Stewart came up with the idea for the race.

“Steuart was a dreamer; he loved talking about big ideas,” Jim said in a statement. “Like, what if Hot Springs combined the love of racing with the notoriety of the historic downtown bathhouses? What if there was a bathtub race right down Central Avenue in front of those national-park bathhouses?”

Jim said the race keeps his brother’s memory alive by taking his original idea and turning it into an all-day event.

“The loofah was picked up by the Downtown Association and what is now Visit Hot Springs, who together have exceeded Steuart’s ideas in creating a wet and wild event unequalled by another tub race in the world.”

The 13th annual tub race will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. This year’s event features 17 teams, including two-time defending champions from Riser Ford in Hot Springs.

“They have won the traditional division two years in a row — by a landslide,” Solleder

said. “They are the ones to watch. Everyone is trying to end their dynasty.”

Solleder said the Austin Weirdos from Austin, Texas, are “looking to be the first out-of-state champion in the tub race.”

The judging of the tubs, a free event, will begin at

6 p.m. Friday. Every team will be judged on construction, engineering and style.

“All of the teams will display their costumes and their theme,” Solleder said.

Each team consists of five people, with one riding in the tub and the other four pushing. Each team member must carry a bar of soap, a bathmat, a loofah and a bath towel.

“People come to to see the races, but they don’t just want to watch; they want to be a part of it,” Solleder said. “Kids and parents throw water balloons at the racers, and it is really fun to see and it is fun for them, too.

“I think it is what brings spectators out year after year.”

Kicking off the event will be the annual Battle of the Badge between the Hot Springs Fire Department and the Hot Springs Police Department. The Police Department won last year.

“The Battle of the Badge is really competitive,” Solleder said. “The Fire Department is hoping to take back the crown, so to speak, after losing last year.

“That race is a full nonstop sprint from the Arlington Hotel to the Gangster Museum.”

Solleder said that normally, there are three stops, but the Battle of the Badge is a full sprint from start to finish — “which isn’t easy,” he said. “It takes some physical strength to make it happen.”

Officer 1st Class Joey Williams, community relations officer for the Hot Springs Police Department, said it is a lot of work because not only are teammates pushing a 200-pound tub, plus a 150- or 160-pound person, but “people are shooting water guns and throwing water balloons as you’re running.”

“We have to push the tub a whole lot more than everybody else does, so we need the strongest and most athletic people to race,” Williams said.

Williams said the rivalry between the Police Department and the Fire Department is friendly, but by the end of the race, it does get a little heated.

“I think the race humanizes the badge,” Williams said. “We all have family, kids, and it shows that we have a sense of humor.

“And we can poke fun at each other and at them. It is fun to watch.”

Williams said the departments have been competing every year, starting with an unsanctioned race on the side. Now the Police Department team competes three times, having to race in the Battle of the Badge and in the modified division.

“Doing it three times, it is a lot of work,” Williams said.

The awards presentation will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday in Hill Wheatley Plaza.

Also new this year is the addition of a small festival, which includes activities, food trucks and live music at the Hill Wheatley Plaza.

“We just wanted to extend the event for the whole day,” Solleder said.

For more information, visit or contact Solleder at or (501) 321-2027.

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or


Sponsor Content