Mud in Your Eye

Arizona has mud that even Shout can't Shout out: 26 years ago, Shout laundry stain remover ran a promotion called "Shout It Out," in which kids ran an obstacle course in pools of mud to prove Shout's stain-removing superpower. After realizing they couldn't get Arizona's red mud out, even with copious amounts of Shout, the company abandoned the promotion.

But Arizona kids loved rolling around in the mud so much that the City of Scottsdale's Parks and Recreation Division took over the event. It's now called Mighty Mud Mania.

Each year, hundreds of kids roll, dive, swim and float in the mud at Chaparral Park. Eleven-year-old Emma Crossman, the defending champion of the "Original Mud Obstacle Course," will return to defend her title again this year. A three-year veteran, Crossman says her favorite part is a dive through tires into a huge mud pit. Says Crossman, "People have to catch you, it's so deep."

Even though she is the champion, Crossman doesn't boast about her ability to wipe out the competition. She graciously says, "Well, I hope I can win again." Where's the killer instinct?

The obstacle course includes tires to jump through, pools to dive into, and tubes to shimmy down — all covered with glorious, gross, squishy mud. "Grown-ups can't do it. Just kids," Crossman explains.

That's just not fair.

Charlie Gantchoff is a grown-up who ran in Mighty Mud Mania twice. Of course, he was 11 at the time. "Where else can you get that filthy without getting in trouble?" he asks. Gantchoff ran in the very first "Shout It Out" competition, but he was not the winner. But he remembers the mud fondly anyway. "It didn't matter about the competition; no one cared about that. It was being completely covered in mud — that was just kid heaven."

Sounds like it.

The competition is not all there is to Mighty Mud Mania. Kids can play in the mud, blow soap bubbles and build mud castles, and the Maricopa County Salt River firefighters will teach kids to make mud houses. There are even baby pools for small children. Crossman says, "You can bring your little brother or sister down to the baby pools — they just love it."

The Mighty Mud Mania folks claim they are bringing in something called "clean mud." (If there is such a thing, it is sure to be found in Scottsdale.) They sift through the dirt meticulously, removing any small rocks or other debris that may make it unsafe for kids to face-plant into. Kids should wear old clothes (since not even Shout can get this dirt out) and lace-up gym-style shoes. No one wants to leave a shoe behind, clean mud or not.

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Quetta Carpenter