Midway through the 5-mile Snow Fun Run at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, an intense storm of flurries began to blow. It would have been quite romantic had it not been for the sting of ice droplets on the eyelids and cheeks of those caught in winter’s draft.
But the runners who sign up for the Sno-W Fun Run don’t care about any of that. The principal goal of entering the race is to reach the finish where tables neatly lined with shots await your arrival. A bit of snow is not going to stop anyone from that goal. The race is frankly secondary to the party that follows. And that’s this race has become a favored annual tradition. Not to set a PR in the brrrr. But to grab a drink at the finish and act anything but demure. All on the grounds of the former Playboy Club in Lake Geneva.
Even the repeat race winner Ryan Giuliano seemed chill and relaxed on his way back past the pack runners on the out and back course, which follows a serpentine set of roads through pretty Wisconsin landscape. The roads are smooth and clean when not coated with snow. It even appeared that several new surfaces had been paved even since last year.
Which allowed Ryan to bring a victory home in 26:31. That’s a relatively pedestrian pace for him or any other runner capable of 5:00 miles. But his time was far better than last year, when a heavy, wet snow had fallen the week before the race. The roads were thick with ice and slush then, and there were very few places where actual pavement showed through.
But again, the philosophy of the event, which reaches back for 36 years, is the worse the conditions, the bigger the party! And what a party. People don’t even change race clothes before piling into the brats and burgers served at the finish. That’s after walking a 12-table gantlet featuring shot cups filled with schnapps, fireballs and flavored alcohol of one kind or another. Which means that more than a few people start the party more than a little happy. It just gets goofier and happier from there.
The official festivities take place starting at 5:30 p.m., when 50-60 willing women compete in a dance competition titled the Sausage Dance. And in good Wisconsin fashion, the Grand Prize is a large, meaty sausage fit for a porn queen.
But to be fair, this year’s Sausage Dancer winner wasn’t dressed like anything like a porn queen. Her Pajama Party wardrobe was quite modest. Yet her moves were great. But here’s the deal in any case. No one cares what you wear during this event. If you want to get half naked and be a bit of a lush for the night, no one is going to stop you.
The tone is handily set by a pair of tinily clad Playboy Bunnies wearing black bikinis who pose for photos with everyone and their mother. We mean that literally. There were whole families at the event.
And given that many running outfits do not consist of that much attire in the first place, there were plenty of people wandering around with their buns hanging out. It’s how the event rolls. You can’t really tell the difference between what people intend to show and what they don’t know is showing.
There always remains a strain of people with propriety. I sat next to someone’s grandmother, who when asked if she was getting up to witness the male dance competition said with some amusement: “No, I value my eyesight.”
See, Wisconsin has a bit of a wild reputation in these categories. If you know where to look, there are actually swingers all over the state. They have their temples of happiness such as the Don Q in Dodgeville,
which features theme rooms fit for the Sybaris. There are cheap mirrors on the ceiling and bad shag carpeting coats the floor. Wisconsin kitsch is a combination of bad taste and contagious celebration.
Apparently plenty of people in the Dairy State thinks there is nothing better than an opportunity for some cheesy sex in a hotel featuring a giant grounded airplane out front. That plane is literally signed by none other than Farrah Fawcett. Only in Wisconsin.
Just up the road from the Don Q Inn sits the House On the Rock, a structure which despite all cultural claims was pretty much designed as a shag shack for a horny psuedo-architect and collector of all things useless yet perversely interesting. And that’s Wisconsin in a nutshell. Pun intended.
But it doesn’t take a shrine to have a little shaggy fun. I personally attended a party years ago with 50-60 runners following a half marathon in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Pretty much everyone in attendance, male and female, lost most of their clothing before the night was through. That collective gesture was not specifically about sex. At least it did not start that way. The gathering seemed more about losing inhibitions than getting laid. It’s a fact: Runners sometimes train so hard they lose their grasp on propriety. Or they should. It seems there’s a little Playboy Bunny in us all.
But let’s be clear: the Grand Geneva where the Sno-W Fun Run is held is not some cheesy joint in a throwback part of the state. Instead, the hotel features a beautiful spa and two amazing golf courses, a ski resort and even a family water park where you can throw the kids in the water forget them for several hours. Or days. Whatever floats your young married boat.
Debauchery is relative, you see. For young couples with kids, even 15 minutes together holding hands by a pool can feel like the height of luxury. As it happens, there are plenty of young families each year at the Sno-W Fun Run. And at one point during the race a child paused at the mile mark waiting for her father to tie his shoes. She turned around and shouted, “C’mon, Dad!” The entire race around her erupted with loud chants, with everyone yelling “C’mon Dad!” in a fit of half-crazed commiseration. It was classic.
So kids are welcome, but it still feels a bit like Devil Take the Hindmost. The resort is, after all, the former site of the Playboy Club where Hugh Hefner and his bunnies once frolicked with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sonny and Cher.
The resort has been updated over the years of course. Yet the basic framework of the hotel with its sightlines assembled in the Prairie Style of architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright is inviting and peaceful.
Navigation of the resort hallways is not so plain and clear. The resort’s system of up and down staircases and labyrinthian halls are confusing when you’ve had a few drinks. But FLW might have liked it that way, cause he was sort of a bastard by all reports. Wright did not seem to give a rat’s ass if people did not like the often confusing elegance of his designs.
So there are signs posted in the hallways that say something like, “Oh, you’re lost? Don’t worry, famous people that stayed here got lost too.” In other words: “Tough shit you drunken fool. Deal with it. Beauty is sometimes complex.”
In order not to get too lost, some of us choose to exit the main party room and settle in at the main lodge to ordering drinks and munch on after party appetizers.
There you can flop in soft chairs and laugh at groups of people wandering past in strange getups. With this year’s theme a Pajama Party, there were some classic treatments and also a few gals that would have frozen to death in three minutes if they had stepped outside in what they were wearing.
But that’s a Playboy tradition, you see. There are likely dozens of permanently frozen bunnies buried out there on the golf course. Once a year, some golfer hits a ball into the thickets only to find the bony hand of a former Playboy Bunny sticking out of a shallow grave. “Look, I think it’s Miss November 1965!” he’ll say to his golf partners. Then everyone tees up and heads to the next hole.
The Playboy tradition does not die easily, however. That’s why it is an annual tradition that the chosen accent for almost every female costume is a set of bunny or kitten ears. As the evening wears on, some of these accessories inevitably fall into the wrong hands or turn up on the heads of bald men and business types. It’s a bit frightening but fun at the same time.
And that somewhat explains how a massively spectacular pair of blue sparkly bunny ears attached to a black mask came into my possession. They were sitting in an unopened plastic bag on the bar with no one tending them. So I quickly asked the bartender, “Whose are these?” He just shrugged, because that’s what bartenders do in such situations. And I said, “They’re mine now!” And took off with my prize.
From there the pictures got strange, and I felt the haunting presence of all those dead and buried Playboy Bunnies haunting the grounds of the resort. They invaded my soul halfway through that second Long Island Iced Tea… along with a stiff shot of Lemon something in a cheap glass. Of such imbibements are bad dreams made.
Meanwhile, we hung with close friends and made new ones out of shared acquaintances. And at one point, I actually took the bunny ears off. Because people were blinded by the crazed look in my eyes inside that mask.
Then it was time to go to bed and hope the spins would not take hold of my brain after the alcohol. And before falling off to sleep, I briefly prayed that I would not dream of becoming an oversized disturbed rabbit. Or would I?
I’m not saying whether it actually happened or not. All evidence to that effect has been destroyed. Unless you count the photos, which more than one person have compared to that creep rabbit from the movie Donnie Darko.
This just proves there is a murky force within us all that needs to come out once in a while. It helps us get through the part of January, or our own dark side. Whatever that means.
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