FOX CROSSING, Wis. (NBC 26) — At O'Hauser Park in Fox Crossing, a collaboration between two local Parks and Rec departments is hitting its ninth anniversary.
The "Filthy Fun Kids Run" is one of the largest joint events for the Village of Fox Crossing and the City of Neenah. It begins Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
"Our park staff does an incredible job, and they start setting it up pretty much right away early in the week. So, Monday, Tuesday they're hauling obstacles," said Fox Crossing Parks and Recreation Director Amanda Geiser.
Geiser spent her Friday morning out at the park with organizers from Neenah.
"We do a number of activities with them throughout the year, but this is our biggest one, and it's been a lot of fun. We feel it's unique to our area. And it's always a good time," said Jim Kruge, Superintendent of Recreation for Neenah Parks and Rec.
"This is one of the biggest and most time-consuming partly just because of the setup involved," Geiser said.
There are several obstacle courses set up for different age groups. The younger children have a track about .65 miles long, while the older kids' courses reach about 1.6 miles in length.
You can view a map of the course and all 36 obstacles here.
And even though there are special medals handed out at the end, the event is a fun run, not a race.
“We want to stress that you can walk, you can run, however, you want to get there. We just want kids out being active in the park," Geiser said.
In fact, activity in the park is more important than even the messiness.
"Some parents are like, 'Oh, they didn't get muddy.' Well, there's a good chance your child chose not to get as muddy," Geiser said. "So, some kids cross the finish line completely muddy. Some are still fairly clean. So, it's all up to the runner."
Standing in front of one of the course's mud pits, Kruge said that he's seen some kids take a moment before diving in at their first opportunity.
"Kids are a little unsure if they should go in or not. But once they get in, it's hard to get them out," Kruge said.
"We want them to be nice and muddy and, and really get out of their comfort zone if they aren't used to getting dirty, or it's not OK by mom and dad to get dirty," Kruge said.
So, because of the nature of the event, a rainy day is no deterrent. Only storms could cause problems.
And anyone planning to participate will want to remember to bring towels because they will not be provided.
"But we do have a shower or a wash-off station that we provide," Kruge said.
Kids will also want to leave nice shoes at home. Geiser said that they've been known to get stuck in the mud pits in the past.
“Usually at the end of the day, when volunteers are done — or even weeks later — we have a pile of shoes that... the parents just give up and go home without looking for them,” she laughed.
The event is not free, but the cost of entry helps pay to organize it and invest in more community opportunities in the future.
"Anything we make in excess of revenue just goes to offset the costs of our youth rec programs. So, it basically just allows us to run some of the other programs that might not run at a big profit," Geiser said. "So, it just supports all of the general programming."
Geiser said the turnout for the event is consistently high.
"Every year multiple families return, new ones every year. And I should mention that we have an incredible amount of volunteers that put this — have helped put this event on, so we'd like to thank them as well," said Geiser.
The volunteers are an essential element of the event that ensures the whole operation stays as safe as it is messy.
"We don't want anyone lost out here, so we make sure everyone gets set in the right way. So, for the older kids, we have someone kind of lead the course out. For the younger kids, we have runners running with them so everyone stays on track; everyone gets to the finish line and goes home happy," Geiser said.
The Filthy Fun Kids Run is always welcoming volunteers, and will even accept help that steps up on the same morning as the run.
"Every obstacle has a volunteer, some have two. So, if you do the math, there's a lot of hands that we need to help out," Geiser said.
She also said that the fun run draws attention from all over.
“A couple of years ago we mapped it out to see where everyone was coming from, and we hit a lot of counties in Wisconsin. So, people come from different, definitely different distances. Not just the Fox Valley, it's Green Bay, Fond du Lac, West – all different areas,” Geiser said.
Because of the grandeur of this fun run, the preparation is extremely proactive. In fact, organizers will focus on the next one very soon.
"There's a lot of meetings, a lot of planning that goes into it. You know, as soon as this is done this year, we'll start thinking about next year's event. And yeah, it's a lot of work. A lot of behind-the-scenes work for a lot of fun," said Kruge.
"You can always count that this will pretty much be this middle of July weekend. It just works out well for the staff and the families," Geiser said.
For more information about other upcoming events in the Neenah area, or to apply to volunteer online for this one, you can visit the Neenah, Wisconsin website.