Millennials battle for charity at Extreme Mud Wars

BY MOLLY HUNSINGER, The Digital Bullpen

ST. PETERSBURG — More than 500 contenders frolicked in the mud for charity at the eighth annual America II Extreme Mud Wars (EMW) event last Saturday at Spa Beach Park, downtown St. Petersburg.

It was a blazing hot afternoon of good, but not so clean fun. Event staff and spectators watched more than 50 coed teams of six or more adults slip and slide in the sludge in eight EMW events.

“Basically it’s what you did as a kid,” said Cory Anderson, a 29-year-old Tampa resident and three-time EMW participant. “You play tug of war, you play dodge ball, volley ball, football, except you add the aspect of mud to it.  It brings family and friends together and friendly competition,” Anderson said.

Anderson and his team of fellow muddy buddies said they prefer the format of EMW to other mud themed sports events, such as Tough Mudder, because there is no running involved and participants get to take breaks.

Anderson said the most fun event was the obstacle course. “You go down a slide, go through tires, go through a tunnel, army crawl under a net, jump over a wall.”

Team spirit filled the air as players dressed in shorts, tanks and colorful headbands cheered on, fist-bumped and high-fived their teammates.

“Beer and a corn dog sounds amazeballs,” said a mud-splattered girl to her friend as they bopped through the crowd toward the concession stand in their matching fluorescent tank tops.

As the DJ pumped up the crowd with an eclectic list of pop, hip hop and country music hits, challengers welcomed the refreshing spray of a fire hose, posed for muddy selfies and clinked their red Solo cups of beer in celebration.

Mud Wars St. Pete, featured

“Let’s go!” shouted the champion of a Belly Bumpers match (think sumo wrestling in a mud pit wearing a giant inner tube), beating his chest like a silverback before teammates tackled him down to the bottom of a mud pit dog pile.

“The event is largely centered around pride and doing it for fun,” said Ian Elston, director of marketing for Tampa Bay Club Sport, noting that some prizes were given including trophies and swag.  “The neat thing about this is the number of partnerships that takes place,” he said, referring to the event programming, sports and local non-profit partnerships that are centrally themed around enrichment programs for underprivileged kids.

Produced in partnership with the City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department, TASCO (Teen, Arts, Sports, and Cultural Opportunities) and Tampa Bay Club Sport, the event’s beer sales and a portion of registration fees benefited TASCO and two other local organizations, Hands4Hope and Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium.

EMW raised $10,000 for partnering organizations in 2016.  Funds raised for 2017 was not yet announced.

“TASCO does such a great job with actually administering the event itself,” Elston said.  “They know how to make work fun, which is the important part.”

The event setup is a two-week process involving some 80 tons of soil and more than 4,300 sandbags to build the massive mud pits used for the games.  It’s a joint effort between volunteers, TASCO staff and summer campers.

TASCO provides value based programming in the areas of arts, sports and technology including before school, after school and summer programs at 12 recreation centers in Pinellas County for middle school and high school youth.

Shawn Drouin, recreations supervisor of TASCO team programs said TASCO gives teens “an opportunity to get involved where they know they’re going to be safe and they’re going to have a good time.”

For more information about TASCO, visit stpete.org.

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