An experienced Chiditarod Master Judge, who is also an award-winning bribe creator, provides some tips for those new to the bribe aspect of race day.
Is bribing required to win?
Not unless you are vying for the Best Bribe Award. Bribes are not required, but they can both add dimension to your theme, and serve as a good reminder of a great cart.
Do Mushers have to spend a ton of money on a bribe?
Absolutely not. Unlike bribing, say, a government official (which we don’t condone, but what you do in your private time is your business), Chiditarod bribes are about “clever”, not “cash”.
How many people are we bribing?
At a minimum, you’ll want enough to bribe two judges at five locations. But sometimes you’ll want to curry favor at the check-in table, or with a cart wrangler, so be prepared.
Tell us what makes for a bribe that gets the attention of a Master Judge…
There are several factors at play:
- Be on theme. Judges don’t get a lot of down time, and so shots and snacks are appreciated, but they are quite common. If you’re going to do booze or treats, make sure they relate to your cart. Example: mini bottles of booze became witty when they came from an airline-themed cart
- Be original. If you’re going for a common element, provide it in an uncommon way. Example: a cart manned by booze characters didn’t provide Johnny Walker or Jose Cuervo as you would expect – they served homemade liquor: moonshine and apple brandy
- Be memorable. Leave us with something that speaks to your cart, your team, your theme. Example: the year there were multiple carts with a Grand Budapest Hotel theme, only one brought baked goodies that had the team name on the perfect replicas of the film’s purple cake boxes.
- Make an impression. Don’t just hand over a bribe… present it. Example: in the airline scenario above, a flight attendant (in drag) asked what we wanted to drink and then performed the full in-flight ritual of making and serving the cocktail, including delivery on a tiny napkin and with a mini bag of peanuts (all airline-branded) from their airplane-bar-cart cart.
Four steps; that sounds like a lot of ground to cover…
Not really – if you can nail just one of the four suggestions above, you’re off to a very good start. Remember, unless you’re trying to win Best Bribe, there are a lot of other elements under consideration in judging.But a great bribe, along with a great cart and costumes, can help you towards the bigger prizes (like Best of Show).
So is the best bribe a handmade/homemade bribe?
It doesn’t have to be. You can buy everything in your bribe… how you put it together makes the difference. Two of the best bribes in recent memory were completely store-bought:
- A road-trip themed cart handed out large baggies containing a vintage map, a vintage hotel brochure, a game to play in the car, a compass, Dramamine, and old-time snacks like mini boxes of raisins. Each bag was themed for a different city, and it was this kind of attention to detail that made this a Best Bribe winner.
- A group of male “grandmas” provided pill-a-day boxes with candy medicine (“take your vitamins!” they scolded), and sealed birthday cards addressed to “My Sweetie” and signed “Love, Grandma”, with a dollar bill inside. (Okay, so maybe cash does come into play sometimes, but it was on-theme!)
Okay, my creative juices are flowing now… any final tips?
Remember, bribes are all about getting and keeping the attention of the Judges – we often have over 100 carts to review (we really do see and note them all), and time is tight. Bribes are a way to engage us and make your cart stick in our memory come awards time.