GREASY WHEELS: WORLD’S BIGGEST MUD RUN

Marengo swampfest By the “Swamp Things” of Dirt Wheels

Stuck and loving it: You had your choice of going around or straight through most of the really bad mud holes. Getting stuck and having your buddies jump in to help are big parts of the fun of this ride.

Editor’s note: This mud-o-cross event was featured in our December 1997 issue of Dirt Wheels. It literally was the beginning of big-time mud racing, starting out in the lush Louisiana swamps. This inaugural event was a precursor to what was to come in the wild world of mud stomping. Had it not happened, mud racing might not exist today. We’ve reprinted it here for a look back at the early days.

GREASY WHEELS: WORLD’S BIGGEST MUD RUN

In the bayous and backwaters of Louisiana, there is a gator-chomping mud run that attracts more riders than any GNC National or cross-country race, including the legendary Blackwater 100. You might even call it the world’s biggest mud run.

Known as the Marengo Swamp Run, it has been held in the small northern Lou­i­si­ana community of Hebert since 1985. 

ATVing’s biggest event: Over 1000 riders took part in the Marengo Swamp Run near Hebert, Louisiana. After a year’s absence, this mudfest and casual ATV ride was reinstated by the Louisiana legislature.

BORN ON THE BAYOU

The mud-bog-infested, 17-mile loop through the lush trails of Hebert Parish has been a popular event for riders to test themselves and their machines. Each year the proceeds from the ride have gone to the Wish I Could Foundation, which is a non-profit group that allows children with life-threatening illnesses to get whatever wish they want—certainly a worthy charity to support and a good way to have fun at the same time.

Unfortunately, the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game stepped in and closed the event down in ’96 for what they claimed were environmental reasons. However, the organizers of the Marengo Swamp Run were determined to keep their event going and support the Wish I Could Foundation.

Thanks to the dedication of countless volunteers led by event organizers Leonard and Brad Tullos, over 10,000 signatures were gathered in favor of the event. Realizing the tremendous support, the Louisiana legislature reinstated the Marengo Swamp Run for ’97. With the announcement of this good news, over 1100 riders made the trek to Hebert. All would have gone well if not for the Department of Fish and Game.

That moment when push comes to shove. Just saying.
Dedicated mud-o-holics know this look. Happy camper.
Heroes: Leonard Tullos and his brother Brad fought and won the battle to get the Marengo Swamp Run back on track. They donated the proceeds from the event to the Wish I Could Foundation, which helps children with severe illnesses get a special wish.

GREASY WHEELS: WORLD’S BIGGEST MUD RUN

CUTTING THE RED TAPE

Since they had their decision overturned, they counterattacked by making sure all of their rules and regulations were met. Their overzealous enforcement was seen by many as unnecessary harassment.

An example of this was the roadblock they set up a half mile after the official start to check for hunting and fishing licenses or stamps. Of course, many of the participants were un­aware of these requirements for an ATV ride. Once the riders were informed that a one-day permit could be purchased for two dollars. Most seemed willing enough to oblige. The problem was that the uncooperative gun-toting officers brought only 400 permits. This left approximately 600 riders being told to turn around and go home!

As the riders log-jammed at the Fish and Game checkpoint and the short supply of stamps ran out, the situation began to look ugly. People had driven from as far away as Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi, and they were in no mood to simply turn around and head back home because some bureaucrat told them they did not have the proper stamp—not to mention the fact that they could not purchase one anyway because there were not enough of them.

Swamp thang: You could just tell who was having fun and who wasn’t.
If not for this first mud race (notice how much fun everyone is having), mud racing might not exist today.

GREASY WHEELS: WORLD’S BIGGEST MUD RUN

SENATOR STOPS A RIOT

Luckily, though, there was a representative of the government who felt strongly about the rights of the individuals attending this worthwhile charity event. Louisiana State Senator Noble Ellington of District 32, who helped get the Marengo Swamp Run passed through the legislature, had come out to see how this charitable event was proceeding.

He noted that the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game had not brought out nearly enough of the stamps needed for the more than 1000 participants. If they did not want to see a riot break out among the nearly 600 riders who could not purchase stamps, they had better do something quick.

“When the Fish and Game Department ran out of license stamps, they didn’t know what to do,” said Senator Ellington after the event. “I consulted the representative on the scene and we eventually resolved it to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Zeros: Louisiana Department of Game and Fisheries enforcement officers were on hand to make sure everyone had a fish and game stamp to ride in the event. There was a near riot when it was discovered they had brought out too few stamps for the number of participants in the ride.
Saved the day: Thanks to Louisiana State Senator Noble Ellington (right) and event organizer Brad Tullos, the Swamp Run was a success. If not for Senator E­lling­ton interceding on the behalf of the participants, things could have gotten ugly.

WISH I COULD FOUNDATION

With the Fish & Game Wildlife stamp fiasco resolved, close to 1200 riders set out around the 17-mile, tree-lined, mudhole-infested course. There were several riders who got ticketed by overzealous rangers when they strayed outside the yellow markers on the course, but, by and large, the majority of riders rode with little or no harassment.

Between the $10 entry fee and the sales of T-shirts and food, the organizers collected between $15,000 and $20,000 to donate to the Wish I Could Foundation. In spite of the hassles and roadblocks put up by the government bureaucrats, the Marengo Swamp Run had successfully accomplished its worthy mission of providing ill children with that once-in-a-lifetime wish.

Thanks to a senator who cared enough to make a difference and dedicated people who couldn’t be stopped by a government bureaucracy, the Marengo Swamp Run lives. Long live the king.

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