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March 29, 2014

Gettin' Muddy: Event draws crowds for ATV competitions

JACKSONVILLE — It's not every outdoor attraction that secretly prays for rain.

Operators of Mud Creek ATV Park got those prayers answered as muddin' enthusiasts and ATV owners from all over streamed into the off-road park past week as Thursday's drizzly, wet weather helped turn the 600-plus acre park into a bigger, muddier, stickier mess for this year's annual High Lifter Mud Nationals four-wheeler event.

"By the end of the weekend, there won't be one speck of clean, green grass to be seen anywhere in the park," a park staffer said with a laugh.

Mud Creek Park Event Coordinator Tracie Engi said Thursday afternoon that the rain and cooler temperatures are a blessing in disguise. The four-day event officially opened to park-goers on Wednesday and lasts through the end of Saturday's concert.

"The rain certainly helps keep everything wet enough," she said. "It gets real dusty if it gets too dry, as you'd imagine. And most of the visitors have said they don't mind the cooler temperatures since they can build camp fires, too."

Engi said while official attendance totals can't be released until the event's end, she said they're already seeing an increase in this year's

visitors.

"Numbers are definitely up from this time last year," she said. "Everyone's very excited to be here. We've got lots of regulars who always say they just can't wait to get here every year!"

The annual event typically attracts thousands of visitors and their ATVs to the Jacksonville area every year.

"Mud Creek ATV Park has always done a wonderful job showcasing Jacksonville," Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce President Peggy Renfro said Friday. “We're always excited to see so many happy faces here, having a great time.”

Park visitor Chase Ashford, of Paris, Texas, was already hard at play Thursday afternoon.

“We had such a great time last year, we came back,” Ashford said. When asked what the attraction is, he replied, “Good times, cold beer and naked women,” before throttling his ride away, flinging much mud in the process.

Not to be outdone, Como, Texas, resident and lady mudder Candace Barnes exclaimed with a laugh, “Forget the mud treatments at the spa! I can sling mud just as good as the boys – and look better doing it, too!”

Four-wheeling visitors to the park this year enjoyed the park's regular amenities, including spots for RV and primitive camping; slogging through the various mud pits, puddles and wallers – they've even got shallower mud holes for the littlest ATVers; an obstacle course; and, back by popular demand, a four-wheeler freestyle show, which incorporates stuns like doing back flips on a four-wheeler.

“We hadn't scheduled a freestyle show in the last couple years, but it proved to be so much a crowd favorite, we brought it back this year,” Engi said.

The park is also holding a concert on Saturday, featuring musical artists Uncle Kracker and Drake White, which is open to the public.

“You don't have to be a guest here (at the park) or even own a four wheeler to come out and enjoy the concert,” Engi said. “Everyone is welcome.”

One-day admission to the park is $10 for adults; children ages 6 and under get in free. Call the park, 903-586-6972, for details..

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