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Greeks compete in Red Bull chariot races as part of Greek Week events

Dave Dawson, Alex Neshyba, and Tara Harrington placed first in the chariot races after four rounds of races. Photo by Sara Koopai

The penguin costumes lay sitting around from last Halloween.

When senior Jimmy Vuong discovered them, he figured it was only natural to dub his team “Penguin Pimpin’” for Greek Week’s first-ever Red Bull Chariot Race.

The team of three donned the oversized black-and-white penguin costumes while Vuong and one of his Phi Kappa Theta fraternity brothers raced their chariot — a bike-futon frame combination, freshly painted with their penguin logo — down 17th Avenue Northeast, carrying the weight of an Alpha Xi Delta sorority teammate.

“We were just thinking of what to do that would be funny and flamboyant,” Vuong said. “And we thought, ‘Who’s not going to laugh at three people in penguin suits?’”

Greek Week, the annual week of service and social events, kicked off last Friday with an all-Greek Mariners game. Throughout the week, Greeks have taken part in events including a “car cram,” a carnival and a motivational speaker Wednesday evening. Tonight, the annual Spring Concert will take place, featuring performances by The-Dream and Kendrick Lamar.

Organizers said they aimed to continue a trend from the previous year and include a more philanthropic focus in the week’s events. They hope to raise around $5,000 to benefit Relay for Life, from fundraisers like the Athlete Auction, proceeds from Mariners tickets, and T-shirt sales.

“Our goal wasn’t really a dollar amount but more of a mindset of the community,” said Lauren Richards, Panhellenic vice president of Greek relations. “Either way, we’re just happy that this year we’ve gotten more of a community feel, and people are even more excited about going to events and getting involved.”

For the first time, Delta Sigma Theta — a sorority in the National Pan-Hellenic Council — is promoting its annual Emerald City Stepshow as part of Greek Week events. Greek Week organizers said they are encouraging the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic members to attend their show.

“We really wanted to include them in Greek Week events to help bridge the gap a little more,” said Andrew Perez, IFC vice president of Greek relations.

The chariot races were a first at the UW. They’ve seen success at California schools and universities in southern states in the past. To prepare, teams followed specific guidelines and were given $25 to use at Home Depot. The rest was left to creative freedom.

Sophomore Tara Harrington rode as passenger in her team’s chariot that was constructed of a large traffic cone and painted to emulate a Red Bull can.

“I was just trying to hold my weight as much as I could, instead of being a deadweight,” she said.

For Vuong, who spent around three days constructing his team’s chariot, the event was a chance for him to put his creative side to work.

“I like designing things and building them, so this was perfect,” he said.

Richards said she would like to see the races back at the UW next year — as a way to bring a dose of competitive energy.

“It’s about spirit, everyone enjoying their time and getting involved,” Richards said. “It’s one of those community-building events, just getting people out there and realizing what Greek Week is all about.”

Reach reporter Kirsten Johnson at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @kirstenj16

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