Phi Delta Theta to hold annual Turtle Derby this weekend
All Greek houses hold philanthropy events, but one University of Idaho fraternity boasts an annual event featuring shelled reptiles.
“It is hands-down the coolest philanthropy on campus,” said Ryan Chapman, Phi Delta Theta president. “It’s the only one that involves live animals, and it happens during Moms’ Weekend, so there’s a ton of attendance.”
Phi Delta Theta will host its 57th annual Turtle Derby during Moms’ Weekend at 11 a.m. Saturday outside its house, located at 804 Elm St. The Turtle Derby will include a series of turtle races among UI’s sororities, and end with a final race between a turtle and a rabbit.
The event will benefit Moscow’s Milestone Decision Inc., an assisted living community that provides housing and care for people who are unable to live on their own.
Alex Rodriguez, Turtle Derby co-chairman, said organizers have previously given the proceeds to the ALS Association, but this year the fraternity reached out to local organizations and charities, and Milestone Decision Inc. is the only one that got back to them.
Rodriguez said he’s honored to keep the Turtle Derby tradition alive with the help of his co-chairman, Matthew Siron. He said they worked together to set up the event, get everyone in their house involved and contact impartial judges so none of the houses cheat.
“It’s been one of the university’s long-standing philanthropies, the kids have always given the money back to the communities and to national organizations,” said Dick Reilly, the chapter’s adviser and Vandal alumnus. “It’s been one of the things that the Greeks and the kids in the dorms have participated in for 57 years.”
Chapman said the Turtle Derby has somewhat evolved into a weeklong philanthropy. This week, there was a banner competition Monday, a photo competition Tuesday and a T-shirt signing event Wednesday where members of Phi Delta Theta had sorority members sign their T-shirts.
Phi Delta Theta received the turtles a week early this year, so members have been taking care of them, Rodriguez said. Thursday night, he said the fraternity serenaded each of the sororities and presented them with a turtle. The sororities have to name and make costumes for their respective turtles by Saturday, which will help differentiate them during the race.
The turtles will compete against one another, and the sorority with the fastest turtle at the end of the race will be presented with a trophy. The winning sorority is allowed to keep the trophy for one year — until the next Turtle Derby.
Near the end of the race, Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) will enter a rabbit into the contest. Rodriguez said even though the rabbit usually wins the classic “tortoise and the hare” scenario, FIJI isn’t allowed to take home the trophy.
Last year, Rodriguez said the event raised $2,500 — this year’s goal is $5,000. He said Phi Delta Theta has set up an account with $1,100 and the fraternity has partnered with a sponsor, Dutch Bros. Coffee, in an attempt to meet the goal, but he doubts it’s going to happen.
Chapman said Phi Delta Theta has tried to reach the $5,000 goal for quite a few years, but they’ve always fallen short. He said fraternity members would be surprised if they are able to reach it this year.
Jamie Lunders can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jazzdanae