By Troy Bishopp
Deansboro, NY – Rain finally arrived after a 13 day hiatus to stimulate thirsty crops and also lift the spirits of would-be mudders participating in this year’s 4th Annual Daniel Barden Highland Mudfest. The recent moisture combined with a picturesque, sunny, sixty-degree race day provided wave after wave of runners, the ingredients to make a memorable journey for charity, based on the premise of nurturing and growing Daniel’s kind spirit, sense of adventure, humility and generosity.
The Mudfest was established in 2012 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown Connecticut that year. Daniel Barden, the event’s namesake, was one of the first graders killed in the incident. A daughter of event co-organizer, Karin Williams LaBanca, was inside the elementary school that day. She escaped physically unharmed but the personal scars compelled the William’s family and their legions of friends, volunteers and sponsors to hold an annual gathering for all ages to inspire humanity and compassion among people.
This year’s installment brought over 1,100 kilt-wearing mudders (400 from Connecticut), to the hills and valleys of MKJ Farm with many experiencing race director, Dan William’s, devious obstacles for the first time. With bagpipes wailing, drones flying overhead documenting the mud pits and thousands of spectators cheering, colorful named teams like the Muddy Mermaids, Mudley Crew, the Hamilton Mudknights, 50 Shades of Mud, Mudder She Wrote and the Newtown Cannonballers embarked into the treacherous sea of chocolatey mud.
Fraught with muddy features, rope swings, monkey bars, culvert pipes and 20% slopes, folks traversed a five-mile run, a 5K event and a half-mile obstacle course for children. The courses contained a challenging assortment of 22 natural and man-made obstacles with names like: The belly dancer, gravity cavity, the cliffs of moor, the leg smasher, the spin cycle, the horizontal mamba, the Irish ninja warrior and culminating with a portentous log walk over the frigid waters of Paul Bunyan’s Cabin just before the finish line.
A constant out-pouring of “Ricky-Bobbys”, high-fives, emotion and praise followed the runners all the way to the end of the “Boilermaker’s Dirty Little Brother” where medallions and wristbands were given out for finishing. New this year for mitigating runner’s muddy persona, was an on-demand hot water washing station provided by Buell Fuels and Center State Propane. Runners enjoyed food from local favorites, Ray Brother’s Barbeque and Michael’s Fine Foods Catering while sipping on beverages provided by PepsiCo and Saranac Brewery. The after-party featured music from popular favorites: Showtime, Grit-n-Grace, Simple Props, Alternate Universe and Third Stone Blues.
Daniel Barden’s Grandfather, Martin Giblyn, attended his first mudfest and emotionally said, “This is unbelievable how people have come together to honor my grandson’s short legacy and pay it forward. It’s truly inspirational”. Dan Williams, the unrelenting race ambassador, gave thanks to his wife, Melissa and sons, Dylan and Gabe for their undying support as well as his immediate family, all the runners, sponsors, spectators and volunteers. “It’s the best day of the year for me to see what can be accomplished when we have a common goal to celebrate life and strive to make this world a better place”.
With the help from runners and major sponsors; PepsiCo, Saranac Brewery, NY Sash, K-Rock, Clinton Tractor Company, Wheelock Disposal Service, Save of the Day Foundation, New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company and other local companies, the “butterfly effect” of funding will go to 14 charities.
Proceeds benefit Odyssey Adventure scholarships, which are made possible through a partnership with the Clark Foundation in Cooperstown, NY. Sixteen eighth graders, (half from Connecticut, half from Central NY) will participate in a 10-day, 80-mile canoe leadership experience through the Adirondacks in July. The youngsters selected, name a charity that affects them in some way, and the Mudfest donates $4000.00 equally to the charities they name.
To support the work and vision of Dan and Melissa Williams, Dave and Jessica Poyer and Frank and Karin LaBanca, visit www.bardenmudfest.org or www.whatwoulddanieldo.com