‘Mario Kart’ comes to life in Monroeville with Mushroom Rally races
Clad in the yellow scales and green spiky shell of the fiercest villain in all the Mushroom Kingdom, Doug Gallagher of Harrison stomped about and unleashed a mighty roar before chasing down enemies in a go-kart.
He played the role of Bowser during a race at Mushroom Rally, a life-sized version of the Nintendo hit video game “Mario Kart.”
Participants dressed up as their favorite characters and raced to win a trip to the finals in Las Vegas.
“I’ve always been a fan of video games since I was a kid,” said Gallagher, 35. “This seemed like the perfect way to live vicariously thought them. It’s a great thing they’re doing here. I’ve got the voice for (Bowser). I do a mean growl (and) he’s also my favorite character to play with whenever I play in Mario Kart when we do battle mode, which is what we came here to do.”
Steel City Indoor Karting in Monroeville hosted the event Sept. 28 and 29. Another race day will be held Saturday.
“Having big groups here is what we always strive for,” owner John Gongas said. “It’s fun. It really attracts a great, diverse crowd and it’s really unique. It’s beyond what we could have imagined. I visited (Mushroom Rally) in Cleveland, and they did a fantastic job. The crew that came in here spent a lot of time. You can see by what’s been put up and arranged here. It’s just fantastic.”
Gongas’ favorite character is Luigi.
“He was never the top dog, a bit of an underdog,” he said.
Alex Peters, 35, and his wife, Linh Peters, 36, live near Aliquippa. They raced as Princess Peach and a banana, respectively.
“It was a lot of fun, a lot of adrenaline going,” Linh Peters said. “I spun around. That was my first time spinning.”
Alex Peters’ character was selected by their daughter, Eilonwyn, 2.
“Mario Kart always has been (fun for the family),” he said.
The outfits, complete with fake mustaches and hats, were provided. Racers also could dress up as characters outside of the video game, such as Spider-Man.
The facility was decorated with inflatable bricks, question blocks, mushrooms and other objects to really capture the in-game visuals.
No bananas or turtle shells were allowed to be on the track or thrown at competitors due to safety reasons.
The Pittsburgh area was one of 16 locations in the country selected for Mushroom Rally. Racers with the fastest laps at each place would go on to the finals in Las Vegas.
“We were trying to get as many cities as possible,” said Jason Young, event tour manager. “We put out or feelers, and Pittsburgh just gave us a really good response in terms of people wanting to sign up to get more information about the Mushroom Rally. That let us know that Pittsburgh would be a good market for us.”
At least 1,200 people were projected to race in Monroeville over three days. More than 15,600 racers were expected to compete throughout the event. The finals are scheduled for Dec. 6 and 7 in the City of Lights.
Young said the Mushroom Rally launched in the United States in February, and about 18 months ago in the United Kingdom.
“Mario Kart is a great game,” Young said about its popularity. “It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s easy for some people depending on what level. I think people come to the Mushroom Rally because there is that nostalgia. So many people played that as a kid. There are several generations that have had their version of that game.”
Each day starts out with some junior races that do not count toward the Las Vegas contest.
Other activities included photo ops and winners steps for first, second and third place. There was an inflatable dart board with balls as darts, and a cash grab game. Players earned stars used toward prizes such as mini mushroom Bluetooth speakers.
The karts used in Monroeville have a top speed of 45 mph.
Gongas said speed is limited for junior racers and not capped for adults.
“It’s really up to the driver to drive as fast as he or she is capable of doing,” he said. “They’re all electric cars, so no fumes. They’re also matched really close to each other so our races are as even as possible.”
Gongas noted drivers all use helmets, and the bumper system used around the track is top of the line and helps prevent injuries.
About 500 people race per day at Steel City Indoor Karting. More information about the business is available at steelcityindoorkarting.com or call 412-380-1314.
More information about Mushroom Rally is available at mushroomrally.com.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .