This 4th of July I joined people from all over the world to witness a very unique event. Every year people from....literally everywhere....journey to a small town in Idaho to witness the World Famous Porcupine Races. Little Council, Idaho definitely gets a "spike" in visitors. Since I have never actually seen a live porcupine I was really excited!
Now, before I continue, here is a side note for anyone who might be worried that these sweet, but prickly, animals could come to harm. This is a tradition that has been going on for many, many years. The night before the races, a team goes out and captures a porcupine. The capturing involves very careful procedures to insure that neither the animal or the team are in any danger. The porcupine is kept in a cage overnight, given plenty of food and water...in fact participants go out of their way to spoil their porcupine. During the race they follow very strict rules. You may use a broom to "shoo" the porcupine down the raceway, but you may not touch the porcupine with the broom. Same goes for the trash can. The porcupines are kept in plastic trash cans between races. They are kept cool and comfortable. After the porcupines are released onto the raceway, the trash cans are only allowed in front or behind them to encourage their movement. The porcupines may not be touched with anything. The facilitators make absolutely positive the porcupines are treated well before, during and after the races. As soon as the races are over, the porcupines are released right back where they were taken.
With that said, what a great time it is at this event! I have never seen anything like it. First of all, there is a Parade the morning of the 4th. Each porcupine and it's team ride through town on their way to the racing field at the high school. With names like Dr. Quill, Spike, P. Ennis (I know right?!), Dale the lady quiller, and Quillium Shakespeare...each porcupine enjoys his moment of parade fame. After the parade everyone meets over at a sectioned off area of the high school football field where the races begin.
I met people from as far away from Australia. No kiddin!! This event really is world famous. Spectators are allowed to stand around the fenced off area, but are encouraged to stand a least a foot away. Sometimes the critters get close to the fence and they can shoot their quills quite a distance. Even though I didn't see anyone get hit with a quill, I heard it is often a common occurrence.
The races happen in heats. There were 25 participants this year. Each porcupine has two team members that work together. It is super exciting! And just a side note.....if you ever see a porcupine in the wild...run quickly. I had no idea they were this fast. Winners are chosen from each heat. Then, while they rest, each team and porcupine are auctioned off to the audience. If you "buy" a team and your team wins you receive half of the winnings. Its really fun to watch the teams compete for the audience's bids. After the rest period, the race is on all the way to the finish. The new winners split the spoils with their team's winning bidder and the porcupine goes home fat and sassy.
History: This event has been going on in Council for more years than anyone could remember when I asked. People come from all over the world to witness the event. Its become a staple in the 4th of July celebration. There were a lot of people there. The excitement was contagious.
Location: The event is held in Council, Idaho approximately 125 miles west of Boise. From Boise take I-84 approximately 46 miles west to US-95 Exit 3 toward Fruitland/Payette. Take US-95 for approximately 75 miles and it will lead you straight into Council. The high school is located on the left side of US-95 right before you turn down Main Street in town.
Dates: Every 4th of July. The parade starts at 11 am and the races start right afterward. They finished up about 3. It was so exciting you don't even notice the time.
Cost: There are no costs associated with this event.
Lodging: You can do this trip as a day trip, however, if you want to stay up in this area and explore for a bit, I highly recommend it. I stayed at Cold Springs Campground about 15 miles further up US-95. It was beautiful and right beside Lost Valley Reservoir. Great facilities.
Here is a few more for you.
Elkhorn Bed and Breakfast/About 7 miles south of Council/Prices range from $95 and up a night/Contact number 208-741-2071
Seven Devils Lodge, Guest Ranch, and Guide Service/30 miles west of Council/Prices range from $165 and up but include all meals, lodging and activities/Contact number 208-253-3014
If you choose to travel a little further north towards McCall there are more hotel options
RV Park: Hodges RV Park/In Council/$27 a night/Contact at 208-253-6042
Camping: There are several Forest Service Campsites around the area. Please visit the Idaho Forest Service website for more information.
Food: There are many good places to eat around Council and one grocery store. We loaded up on groceries to take camping and ate at a pizza place in town called Shy Simons. Fantastic!! There is also a steak house and a breakfast place that are wonderful.
Special Notes: This is a kid friendly event. Just keep them away from the fence and don't let them attempt to pet the porcupines. Yikes! You can bring pets, but I wouldn't recommend it. Wear sunscreen and bring seating. There is very limited room in the stands and you can get closer bringing your own seat. Don't miss out on this event...its a once in a lifetime experience!