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Dirty Pool 

Revelers at Mighty Mud Mania are as happy as pigs in slop

This Thursday, twenty dump trucks laden with dirt will arrive at their destination: Jefferson Barracks Park. Near Grant's Shelter, they will relieve themselves of the soil. Then come the water hoses, and the mud pit is formed. On Friday and Saturday, 4,500 area children will launch themselves into the mud and make an unholy mess.

Mighty Mud Mania, now in its eighteenth year, allows kids ages five through fifteen to run through a mud-drenched 200-foot obstacle course modeled after the army-camp version.

"The very first thing they have to do is get right down on their stomachs and [crawl under] netting about a foot-and-a-half above the ground," says St. Louis County Parks recreation supervisor Barbara Hopson, "so they're crawling through the mud to start, so that pretty much breaks the ice -- that's where they get over their fear of getting muddy."

The kids then climb up a ramp with the aid of a cargo net, whoosh down a slide, run through tunnels and crawl or dive through inner tubes, Hopson explains. A big mud pit is found at the end of the course, where "sometimes the kids just sit there and put mud on their heads and make mud pies," she says. "All you can see is the bright of the kids' eyes and the white of their teeth." It's straight out of Clan of the Cave Bear.

Kids can clean up under a grid of outdoor shower heads and use changing tents. Most parents, says Hopson, just have their kids throw the muddy clothes in the trash. Then it's off to the inflatable attractions, a sand-pit treasure hunt and hotdogs for sale.

After dark, the lights go on for the coed adult mud-wrestling challenge (we wish).

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Speaking of Highlights, Barbara Hopson

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