When Homer gets hot, Homerites get muddy.
Families turned out by the dozens on Sunday to escape the heat and sun by frolicking in a large pit of mud at Cottonwood Horse Park. While it might seem a bit drastic to outsiders, it’s become the norm in Homer.
Now in its ninth year, the Mud Games, also known as the Mud Wallow, were named last year for its cofounder, Carmen Field, who also founded the organization that hosts the wallow, Nature Rocks. Field died of breast cancer on May 31, 2016, at age 53. She founded the wallow with Homer resident Lisa Matlock.
Lisa “Red” Asselin is one of the wallow’s coordinators.
“I think that it gives kids an opportunity to be free and really explore nature, without any routine or an ask of them,” she said of the event.
Some youngsters there on Sunday leapt into the mud with abandon, and were soon unrecognizable and coated with the stuff. Others, with mothers and fathers leading them by the hand, cautiously dipped a toe in.
And it’s not just for the kids. Many a parent could be seen delighting in the mess, taking shots of mud thrown by their children and even getting in a few hits themselves.
Asselin said the event has become a great time for families to connect.
“You know, parents and caregivers and their kids in the mud, not having to stick to an agenda or schedule, and just being free to enjoy each other’s company and that intentionally with each other,” she said.
It’s also a way to bring together people from the larger Homer community who wouldn’t normally interact due to kids going to different schools, daycares etc., Asselin said.
Hallie Ballou didn’t partake in the mud herself, but helped her 7-year-old son, Sailor Clapp, wash off with a hose after becoming thoroughly soaked through in dirt. Ballou is originally from the area, but the family has been living in Texas most recently. She said they are up visiting for the summer and that her mother heard about the Mud Games.
“I feel like it’s going to be the peak of the summer,” Ballou said. “We’ve done all the other fun Homer things, but mud games, this is just the peak I think.”
Over at another corner of the pit, Cassy Fraley sat with her 4-year-old daughter Lucy, who was less sure about the whole thing, while her younger daughter, 2-year-old Polly, waded through the mud. This is the family’s second year coming to the games.
“I think it just gives them the chance to be kids,” Fraley said. “(To) play out in the mud and not worry about getting in trouble for being muddy.”