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Irish dance dads slide to first place finish at Mud Challenge

Tir na Nog Dads team member James Martell laughs as he falls back into water at the 2018 Mud Challenge. The team would go on to place first.
Tir na Nog Dads team member James Martell laughs as he falls back into water at the 2018 Mud Challenge. The team would go on to place first. - Sara Ericsson

Lightfoot and Wolfville places second

WOLFVILLE – Wolfville is a muddy place – something that is celebrated each year with the Mud Creek Days’ infamous Mud Challenge, where contestants volunteer to frolic in mud.

It’s an event that’s been part of the festival intermittently for decades, and has always been a crowd favourite – something organizer Nick Zamora said never changes year after year.

“It’s a series of challenges that all involve mud, or getting muddy. Each competitor is going to get, well, very muddy,” he said.

The crowd’s love for the event never changes, but each new year brings new teams, with this year seeing Lightfoot and Wolfville among the first-time entries.

The Lightfoot team didn’t tread lightly – they won the plank walk event by a landslide.
The Lightfoot team didn’t tread lightly – they won the plank walk event by a landslide.

Teammates Julia Belsey, Katie Reynolds and Gary Sherman were among around 20 other competitors, all gearing up to get seriously muddy.

“Everyone at the vineyard put their name in – we were the lucky draw, and we can’t wait to do this,” said Belsey.

L’Arche, the defending champions, were excited but a little nervous ahead of the event. Kim Trun, who competed on last year’s winning team, said defending their title meant more pressure to win yet again.

“This event is fun, but I really don’t know if what I learned last year will help us this year,” she laughed.

As the teams battled it out and took turns getting muddy, competitors high-fived and smiled, laughing as each competitor fought to win and also catch their breath.

Each team competed in events including musical chairs, tic-tac-toe, a muddy word search, a plank race and a triathlon, with two ultimately winning spots in the waterslide final.

Teams fished for letters in another event where they had to spell Mudley.
Teams fished for letters in another event where they had to spell Mudley.

Lightfoot and Wolfville faced off against the Tir na Nog Dads. It was a fierce fight – both teams carried buckets of mud up the hill and slid down to return their bucket to another teammate – and the crowd was wild.

Competitors switched between running and sliding down the watery tarp, and one winner came out on top – the Tir na Nog Dads, another rookie team.

Teammates Andy Webster, James Martell, David McSorley and Matthew Jennings celebrated their win with a big – albeit muddy – group hug.

“This was amazing, and mental – I’d do it again, so it obviously wasn’t that bad,” laughed Webster, who emailed the other three men the week before to get the team together.

The team said small breaks before the last event gave them just enough energy to keep their momentum high. That, and thinking of what would come after the race.

“I just kept thinking how nice a pint at Paddy’s after this would taste,” said McSorley.

The Tir na Nog Dads fought hard to win, and to catch their breath after the race.
The Tir na Nog Dads fought hard to win, and to catch their breath after the race.

Jennings hugged his daughter and other family members after the race, holding the Mudley trophy high in the air.

As the winning team, they’ll keep the trophy until next year’s new crop of entries has a go again.

The entry fees teams pay to participate go each year towards the Mudley Fund, which helps Wolfville youth access recreation programs.

And as Jennings fought to catch his breath, he summed up just why participating in such activities can take one’s breath away.

“It was absolutely exhausting but so much fun. All of our families were here to cheer us on, so this was a great time,” he said.

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