Amazing Race makes a comeback next weekend

Nick Stroman
A team hurries to fill a bicycle tire with air at Russell’s Cycling and Fitness Center during last year’s Amazing Race. The competition is back for a second time, taking place Oct. 17.

The streets and businesses of Washington will soon be filled with teams of people running and driving around the city frantically looking for clues.

The second annual Washington Amazing Race is Oct. 17.

The race is the brainchild of park district recreation manager Kristy Howell, a fan of the popular Emmy-award-winning reality show.

Howell said she planned each leg of the race to be unique to Washington and its businesses and some of the Midwestern ways of doing things.

“I like to think outside of the box with the challenges and find tasks that maybe some people haven’t tried before and get them out of their comfort zones. Some are physical, while others involve eating or thinking,” Howell said.

After Howell thinks of the challenges, she calls local businesses months ahead of time to carry out her vision and help with logistics.

“I don’t want to impose on the businesses so they can’t carry on regular work. Sometimes they even open up just for us if they are closed during the hours of the race,” Howell said.

Howell added she has been planning the second annual race all year and constantly kept a pen and notebook nearby.

“I see something and write it down immediately if I think it would work for the race. It’s also how I plan my seasonal brochures for the park district. I am always writing ideas down,” Howell said.

As for any changes the second time around, Howell said she is “not messing with success.”

“Everyone had a great time last year, and I’m really only changing the challenges. Now, if I end up doing this several years in a row, I might run out of challenges, but for now, I am always thinking about stuff,” Howell said.

For last year’s race, some of the race legs involved clues about the Wenger Shelter, Sleep Inn, Ace Hardware and the park district building itself.

“We’re in an old school building and we used that as the first challenge to get teams out the door. We had them solve math problems and they had to find a locker and a combination for their next clue to get racing,” Howell said.

“You wouldn’t believe the number of adults that didn’t remember how to unlock a locker combination,” she added with a laugh.

Howell said she is also always thinking about safety when it comes to the race.

There is a rule on the race that any team that receives a speeding ticket must add 30 minutes

onto their time.

“We want to keep our friends at the police department happy. We have seven to eight stops, and we like to stay in Washington but not draw too much attention with craziness,” Howell said.

Some teams last year mastered speed, Howell said.

“With lots of the teams, one person would stay in the car with it running while the others would run out and leave their doors open. All they had to do was jump in and take off,” Howell said.

When Howell performed a trial run of the race last year, she estimated the time as two hours and 10 minutes.

The winning team, Tim and Michael Damery of Metamora and Jason and Nicole Montgomery of Washington, finished in one hour and 45 minutes.

Michael Damery is a counselor at Washington Community High School, while Tim is the park district executive director’s brother-in-law.

Michael Damery said she had a great time on last year’s race and was happy with the win, even though she really did not know what to expect going into it.

“You have to play on everyone’s strengths. I was not about to eat pig’s feet or anything, but maybe another one of us was game for that,” she said.

“If we were to play again this year, maybe we’d end up in last place. Honestly, I think a lot of the race — even with the TV show — is all about luck,” she added.

The winning team took home $130, double the team entry fee of $65.

The second-place team wins its money back.

“The entry fee covers the park district’s expenses for making the race work, such as the renting of a room at Sleep Inn or purchasing tools from Ace Hardware,” Howell said.

There are 10 teams of four signed up for the Washington Amazing Race.

To register for the second annual Washington Amazing Race, go to the park district office or register online at

“I think the race is a great way to showcase what we have here in Washington,” Howell said. “I’m hopeful we will have another great time.”