Down & Dirty

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, June 27, 2013



For 30 years, they’ve been getting down and dirty in Belhaven. The Pantego Volunteer Fire Department’s major fundraiser — the Pantego Mud Run — is slated for July 4.
Competitors from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia descend on Belhaven to watch the spectacle of custom vehicles plowing their way through two to four feet of mud. It’s sink or swim and the one that stays on top the longest, wins.
“There are different types of vehicles and everybody thinks they can beat each other,” said Pantego Fire Chief Derrick Myers. “Long as they wheels keep turning, we keep the time going. Go until you stop.”
That’s no easy feat, according to Myers. Members of the Pantego VFD put a lot of time and effort into making a track that’s both thick and “soupy,” spreading topsoil in a pit, adding water and mixing with a chisel plow.
“It’s the toughest vehicle that can go through the mud,” Myers said. “And my guys at the fire department take pride in getting that hole the best they can get it.”
Gates open at 9 a.m., but the four classes of competition, 30 vehicles in each category, don’t start their bid for best times until 1:30 p.m. As many as 1,000 spectators watch as the vehicles fly through the course — that is, until the mud drags them to a full halt. When that happens, a tractor pulls the stuck vehicles from the mud via a chain attached before the run. Some drivers go without the chain, however, believing it weighs the vehicle down, ultimately taking their chances on a mud dive when they get stuck, according to Myers. Those drivers are required to hook the chain up to their own vehicle, even if it’s in 4 feet of mud, Myers explained.
One major change is set to take place at the Pantego Mud Run this year.
“We have always had a no alcohol policy, but we’ve never really enforced it,” Myers said. “But it comes a point when you’ve got to put the brakes on something.”
Myers said that fights at last year’s event prompted organizers to start enforcing the policy. This year, fire department members will be conducting basic searches of vehicles as they enter the Mud Run parking area.
“It’s private property … We have to protect our spectators and ourselves,” Myers said.
Myers said Ponzer Volunteer Fire Department will have concessions and that there will be grandstand seating with plenty of shade. Admission is $10, but children 7-years-old and under are allowed for free.
The Pantego Mud Run is located next door to 28224 U.S. Highway 264 East, Belhaven.