Scottsdale Mighty Mud Mania tradition comes of age

(Submitted photo)

2015 marks 40 years of Mighty Mud Mania in the city of Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

A deep pit of wet, cool mud is a playful young child’s dream and a parent’s worst nightmare.

Until Mighty Mud Mania, Scottsdale’s historic celebratory “welcome to summer” event started 40 years ago, there were few places kids could play guilt-free.

The tradition held at Chaparral Park has evolved into an event that is fun for the whole family. Mighty Mud Mania hosts a morning full of pits, obstacles and games doused in mud just waiting for residents of all ages to get down and dirty.

The event began in 1976 as a Shout gimmick, called “Shout It Out Decathlon” where the company gave away 300 white T-shirts to participants, according to the city website,

“After two or three years they said ‘you know this is fun but we aren’t going to do it anymore,’ and we said well we really like it so we’re going to keep it,” said Parks and Recreation Manager Terry Erickson in a phone interview on May 27.

“So we renamed it Mighty Mud Mania and have been adding mud pits and mud courses and water arenas and other fun things over the years since then.”

This year’s Mighty Mud Mania will be 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.

The event started with one course and around six obstacles, according to Scottsdale Recreation Coordinator Dan Miller.

“The event is now host to three courses ranging all age groups, free play mud pits, inflatable water slides, and our Mudville Town for five and under,” Mr. Miller stated in an e-mailed response to questions on May 27.

The event has evolved based on feedback from participants. That is how the extreme course for ages 13 and older was developed, said Mr. Miller.

“Even in the last 10 years the event has completely changed and evolved to having almost all new obstacles on each course, the additions of the mud pits, and changing from the mud pools to Mudville,” stated Mr. Miller.

The unique day started to draw attention of others, according to Ms. Erickson, who has been involved with the event for 39 years.

“Back when all those mud runs started all those people putting them on contacted us saying ‘hey, how do you make your mud for Mighty Mud Mania?’” said Ms. Erickson. “So I consider us kind of the birth of the whole mud run thing.”

Her staff began digging the mud pits using backhoes, in the beginning of May. The unusual amount of rain Scottsdale experienced in May has presented her team with challenges.

“They are having to pump extra water out of the empty pits to get it prepared for the dirt that comes in on Monday,” said Ms. Erickson.

After the physical work is done, the park is left alone for the grass to grow so there is traction when running through the courses. During that time, the planning staff meets with other departments of the city such as plumbers, electricians, police and fire, according to Mr. Miller.

(Submitted photo)

A historical photo illustrates the long tradition of  Mighty Mud Mania in the city of Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Clean mud and clean fun

“We do make all the mud, we purchase what we call ‘clean dirt’ from a local company,” said Mr. Miller.

“The dirt arrives the week of the event and we start to mix it the Thursday before to make sure it’s good and muddy come event day.”

“Clean mud” has not had fertilizer or reclaimed water used on it, according to Mr. Miller. It also is screened to remove twigs, grass and rocks from the dirt prior to being delivered.

“When they dump the dirt into the pits, if it is necessary, we can additionally screen the dirt again,” said Ms. Erickson. “The last couple of years we have not had to do that.”

Throughout the year the team works on ideas to improve the event. Ms. Erickson said one new event this year is a man-powered water-spraying apparatus that gets its power from being pedaled like a bicycle.

“They have done a number of cool obstacles for us that really helps to make it safe and fun,” said Ms. Erickson.

(Submitted photo)

A historical photo of Mighty Mud Mania in Scottsdale.(Submitted photo)

Although Scottsdale works to keep the event fun and exciting for everyone, Mighty Mud Mania still has some of the original obstacles such as the rope swing, the tunnels and the knee bender.

According to the city of Scottsdale website, there are three mud courses: the mini-mud obstacle course for kids ages 6 and younger; the original mud course for ages 7-12; and the extreme mud course, recommended for ages 13 and older.

Permission slips for youths and waivers for adults are required for everyone, said Ms. Erickson. She also recommends clothing that is not important and can be thrown away. Everyone must be wearing lace-up close-toed shoes.

“For kids who don’t like mud, there is a water arena, with slides and play things with water involved to keep cool and not get muddy,” said Ms. Erickson. “In addition to the mud courses we have mud pits, just for an opportunity to play in the mud.”

After the event, temporary showers have been provided, as well as a hosing station to clean up after completing the course.

In addition, there will be food vendors as well as a dunk tank with Scottsdale staff members inside throughout the day. The staff members scheduled to be in the dunk tank include: Fire Chief Tom Shannon, City Attorney Bruce Washburn, Human Services Director Greg Bestgen, Planning and Development Director Randy Grant, Library Director Kathleen Wade and more.

This year’s Mighty Mud Mania will be 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, at Chaparral Park, 5401 N. Hayden Road in Scottsdale.

The event is free to attend, and for ages 16 and under to participate in the obstacle courses. Instead of an admission fee, the parks and recreation staff asks that patrons bring non-perishable food items that will be donated to Vista Del Camino food bank. Patrons ages 17 and over are required to pay a $10 fee to run the extreme obstacle course.

To obtain a permission slip or waiver, or for more information visit the Mighty Mud Mania website,

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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