WORLD’S BIGGEST MUD RUN | Marengo Suicide Swamp fest

**Editors Note-Dec 97 issue.

By the Swamp Things at DIRT WHEELS

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

Born on the Bayou

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.

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

Heroes: Leonard Tullos and his brother Brad fought and won the battle to get the Marengo Swamp Run back on track. They donate the proceeds from the event to the Wish I Could Foun­da­tion, which helps children with severe illnesses get a special wish.

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.

Swamp Thang: You could just tell who was having fun and who wasn’t.

Thanks to the dedication of countless volunteers led by event organizers Leonard and Brad Tullos, over 10,000 signatures in favor of the event were gathered. 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.

Born on the Bayou

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 $2, most seemed willing enough to oblige. The problem was that the uncooperative gun-toting officers brought along only 400 permits with them. This left approximately 600 riders being told to turn around and go home!

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

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. 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.

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 Sen. 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.

Zeroes: 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.

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

WISH I COULD SUCCESS

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 Sui­cide 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.

Saved the day: Thanks to Louisiana State Sen. Noble Ellington (right) and event organizer Brad Tullos, the Swamp Run was a success. If not for Sen. El­ling­ton interceding on the behalf of the participants, things could have gotten ugly.

Born on the Bayou

For more information on the Ma­ren­go Swamp Run or to help support its continued existence, contact Wish I Could at P.O. Box 725, Columbia, LA 71418, or Sen. Noble Ellington at 4270 Front St., Winnsboro, LA 71295; (318) 435-7313.

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