Jacksonville Daily Progress
Several thousand people – a number some speculate might grow high as 15,000 – are expected to descend on Mud Creek Off-Road Park this week as the High Lifter ATV Mud Nationals kick into high gear Thursday.
“It gets really revved up on Thursday and Friday,” explained Eric Olivas, 29, of Belton.
Olivas brought his Yamaha Grizzly ATV to the event. He described the vehicle as “big as a van.”
Despite many high estimations from vendors and participants, Tracie Engi, event coordinator, declined to speculate on an exact expected amount – other than to say it would definitely be in the thousands.
Engi said the major crowds are expected to start rolling in on Thursday.
“From here on, it will get busier and busier,” said Engi. “Very few people leave after they get here. Plus, the weather is set for a very good crowd this weekend.”
On Wednesday people were still trickling in. Those in attendance took advantage of the down time to enjoy the many goods and foods for sale.
Engi – of Shreveport, Louisiana's High Lifter Products, Inc. – said one new attraction this year is an obstacle course on which everyone can anticipate. Also, she added,the weekend concerts should provide a very good draw.
“They have planned events for the whole week, with cash and prizes for the competitions,” she said. “There's a sport for everybody.”
There's food for everybody, too.
Vendor Gloria Lopez-Allende, 62, of Houston has vended at the event for the past three years. She said she expects people as far away as England, Germany, and even Russia to attend. She and her husband, Juan Lopez, stocked up on plenty of food just in case.
The couple are known for their delicious, huge hamburgers, Texas funnel cakes, corn dogs, nuggets and homemade salsa.
“It's been busy here and it's going to get busier,” Lopez-Allende said. “This is a real blessing for everyone.”
Freddy and Ann Patrick of Rusk also have their own stand there, and are also well known for their hamburgers. In his fifth year, Freddy Patrick agrees the incoming crowds will be large,
Mark and Cindy Ingram of MCI Concessions of Athens expect the same amount of people.
Unlike many of their fellow concessionaires, they had only set up shop on Wednesday yet had already been flooded by over 100 customers.
The Ingrams are well known for their pulled pork sandwiches.
Mike Lindsey, 42, of Jacksonville, has been a Cherokee County Sheriff's Department food vendor for about seven years. His stand was dishing out huge helping of barbecue beef, hamburgers, and curly fries, with all proceeds going to the charitable events favorites by the Cherokee County employee's organization, which was guiding the event.
In his day job, Lindsey is Cherokee County Jail Administrator.
But Wednesday wasn't all about food, ATVs and modestly-dressed people. There were firearms, too.
Kenneth Gardner, president of the Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy Alumni, and Sue Adams, a member, were selling raffle tickets for a Bushmaster AR-15.
As of Wednesday, the duo had sold 75 tickets in three hours.