First- ever Itascamazing Race

Event launched United Way’s Helping Here campaign
Audio Articles on Hometown Focus is sponsored by Rock Ridge Public Schools.
Rapids Radio used their local knowledge to find the chickadee mural at the Grand Rapids Area Library during the Itascamazing Race. Submitted photo.

Rapids Radio used their local knowledge to find the chickadee mural at the Grand Rapids Area Library during the Itascamazing Race. Submitted photo.

GRAND RAPIDS — It was a rainy, overcast afternoon, but that didn’t hold back competitors in the first Itascamazing Race, hosted by United Way of 1000 Lakes.

On August 26, participants raced around Grand Rapids, taking on challenges in the hopes of being the first team to win The Itascamazing Race. The event required participants to follow clues that would lead them to different sites throughout the city. Hosted by businesses and other local landmarks, challenges ranged from puzzling, like finding a specific item in the library, to silly, such as doing stand-up comedy at Klockow Brewing Company and performing a rowing song with Paddle Hoppers. Points were awarded for each completed task, as well as bonus and style points.


After crossing the finish line at Rapids Brewing Co., teams were surprised with one last challenge, in which a representative from each team tried to outlast the others in holding a filled stein. The brewery also drew supporters to the post-race festivities, including live music by Ditty Wish and McKeon Hugh Roberts, a select menu from Rapids Brewing, and an awards ceremony.

The top prize went to Rapids Radio, made up of employees from Lamke Broadcasting Inc., who were the quickest to complete all the possible challenges and cross the finish line. We’re Just Here to Get Away from Our Kids, a team recruited by Chris and Ashley Walker of Zorbaz, finished second, with Ben’s Buds, led by team captain Sam Evans of Evans Insurance Agency, coming in third.

Prizes were also awarded to First Call for Help/211’s team, Soteria, whose Greek-inspired team uniform brought laughs and stood out. A team of teachers from Bigfork won the Team Spirit award for their fun and fearlessness in taking on challenges. Two of the race’s youngest competitors won special recognition representing their teams well in the standup comedy and minnow pouring challenges.

The Itascamazing Race was sponsored by Paul Bunyan Communications at the Platinum level and by Essentia Health, Members Cooperative Credit Union, Roessler & Co., Ltd., and Woodland Bank at the Gold level.

Despite being a light-spirited event, the race marked the beginning of United Way of 1000 Lakes’ Helping Here campaign, an annual effort aimed at problem-solving on a large scale by bolstering community-wide access to education, financial stability, and health. More information about this year’s campaign can be found at helping-here and through Facebook, including the programs they fund and the positive impact they have in the greater Itasca area.

Community members interested in joining the Helping Here campaign are invited to make a tax-deductible donation directly to United Way (350 NW 1St Ave., STE A, Grand Rapids, MN 55744), online at, or texting LAKES to 26989.

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