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Ghoulish Teams More Than Shovel Ready For Coffin Races

This Saturday, 40 teams will put themselves into a grave situation: the 2nd annual EugFUN Coffin Races. This Halloween-themed event is quite the undertaking: participants build a coffin-shaped go-cart, with as much emphasis put on creativity and team dynamic as well as speed. 

KLCC’s Brian Bull checks in with three teams hoping to avoid a dead heat.

In a serene, South Hills neighborhood, Michael Burlingame and Ethan Hodgin test drive their creation, currently a welded-chassis frame with bicycle wheels, through the leaf-covered street.

Credit Michael Burlingame
Members of Team David S. Pumpkins design and build skeleton costumes.

Can this coffin-racer bury the competition? Burlingame thinks so.

“Steering is a big factor," he tells KLCC.  "You see a lot of vehicles going down the hill that are kinda doing the broken shopping cart wheel thing. That greatly reduces speed, that’s a lot of drag, so I made sure that the steering was really top notch on this vehicle.”

Burlingame says the coffin racer’s theme is based on a 2016 Saturday Night Live Halloween skit with Tom Hanks.

CLIP: “I’m David Pumpkins!  And I’m going to scare the hell out of you.” (FADE MUSIC UNDER)

Burlingame’s team is also working on skeleton costumes, which is all “part of it”. It’s still a bone of contention though as to whose vehicle will slay the competition.

In the back area of a West Eugene business called DocuTrak, company president Ted Walkup watches a teammate drill holes into the bumper of a black coffin dappled with a green tie-dye pattern. The racer also sports a logo similar to a certain counterculture jam band. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Ted Walkup and Carolyn McHorse stand by the nearly-finished coffin racer for Team Grateful Shred.

“The Team name is the ‘Grateful Shred’. One of our main focuses is shredding of documents for people. 

"It fit into the Coffin Races quite nicely, and it’s kind of a Eugene thing.”

But with any coffin race, there’s stiff competition.  A few miles closer to the downtown, another team is working on their racer, dubbed “The Rainbow of Death.” Jeremy Parliman welds a coffin-frame body together while Ali McQueen cuts metal tubing.  Both are with Rainbow Valley Design and Construction.

“With the safety inspection, it’s a little nerve wracking," says Parliman.  "We all want to laugh and enjoy ourselves.”

“We’ve got a great shop and all the tools, all it takes is time," adds McQueen. "And we got that.”

Credit Ali McQueen / Rainbow Valley Design and Construction
Rainbow Valley Design and Construction
The Team Rainbow of Death crew cut and weld metal tubing to form the body of their coffin racer.

BULL: "The idea being not to actually make this a literal coffin."

“Exactly! Well said," laughs Parliman.

"This one will stay six feet ABOVE ground!" asserts McQueen. 

EUGfun events coordinator Oliver Neill recalls response to last year’s inauguralCoffin Race. It didn’t die.

“People in Eugene love Halloween and love adrenaline and weird, freaky stuff," smiles Neill.  "So this was kind of the perfect hybrid of all those things.”

Neill adds he expects this race to become a regular, annual event.

WEB EXTRA: A Sneak Peek At Coffin Races With Three Teams

So…of the 40 teams plotting to win, who’ll urn top honors in the Second Annual Coffin Races? And who’ll get buried? That’s what my KLCC colleague, Melorie Begay, will dig up…after she checks out the event Saturday.

Copyright 2019, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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