If YOU GO
What: Red Neck Resort mud park's opening weekend party
Where: 301 Country Road 341, Sweetwater, Tenn.
When: Today and Sunday
Cost: $20 day pass, $30 weekend pass, kids 12 and under free
What's loud, red and brown all over?
Pretty much everyone after a day at the new mud park in Sweetwater, Tenn.
Jeff Darragh, owner of Red Neck Resort, kicked off his venue's inaugural weekend-long event Friday. He hopes to draw hundreds of trucks, ATVs and spectators for a weekend of big vehicles splashing around in mud holes.
"It's kind of like tailgating with mud," Darragh said. "Big kids get to be little kids again."
Darragh's new business will open eight times a year for these mudding events. He's passionate about what he calls the redneck experience, but just a few years ago he never dreamed he'd be tearing up his property right off Interstate 75, intentionally creating swamplike conditions.
Darragh owned the property for years. He envisioned a large shopping center for the site, anchored by a Walmart, Home Depot or a similar large anchor.
But with the recession stalling such projects all over the nation, Darragh started to look for other uses.
That's when he came across mudding.
"After looking at the craze around this mudding culture, I think the Red Neck Resort may be the land's highest and best use," he said.
Mudding has been a hobby quickly gaining in popularity across the Southeast, according to Glen Castle, who oversees Mud Life Magazine. His publication launched in 2008 and has gained readership every year since.
That gain in sales reflects huge growth in the number of mudders. In southern Florida, the heart of the mudding community, Castle said it's common to see thousands of trucks turn out at events similar to the ones Darragh plans to host. Castle doesn't expect to see that kind of turnout here in Tennessee just yet, but he imagines participation numbers will be high.
'If he has a couple hundred trucks for this opening, I think he's done a good job," he said. "It's a lot of fun. I can't wait to see what Jeff and these guys do."
Of course, parks like Darragh's aren't without risk. Castle said if participants aren't given clear direction on what they're supposed to be doing and when, the combination of a little too much alcohol and big engines has the potential to go wrong.
"It takes a lot of security to keep some of these cowboys in check," he said. "It only takes a few bad apples and you're going to spoil it for everyone. I think people understand that and police themselves."
Darragh said insuring the park was a bit of a challenge, but he's confident with the security measures he has taken, everyone will have a good time.
"It can be dangerous," he said. "A lot of it's just personal responsibility."
Sammy Reagan, manager of Tom's 4x4 Superstore, sells parts that can be used for mudding on a daily basis. He said Chattanooga's four-wheeling community is huge, but mudding has stayed on the fringes. The Red Neck Resort's opening could push it into the foreground.
"They will get a following," he said. "It'll turn an eye, and if they play it out right, I think it's going to do well."
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