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Mud, ice cold water and a ring of fire were the big draw last weekend as an estimate 2,500 people came out to watch or participate in Sumter County’s first ever Cowboy Crawl in Rutland.
Set at Providence Ranch on S.R. 44, the event included 25 obstacles and an estimated 1,500 brave participants taking on the crawl challenge, according to Samantha Merritt of the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce.
Slated as a fundraiser for the organization, and a day out for the community, those who attended experienced everything from live music and entertainment to the wild race through obstacles.
Some of the other obstacles included “Alligator Alley” built by Chandler’s Electric and included a trip over a pond. There were two choices – by tightrope or a very long set of monkey bars. There was Snake Bite Alley with obstacles inside a screened in maze, Water Moccasin Way – balance beams over a lake and the Ring of Fire – the finale as runners paced through rings of fire at the end of the run.
Builders went so far as to put an in-ground pool in and add ice water.
Organizers also had a panel determine the top obstacle. The vote went to MICO Custom for their “Zipper Ripper” zipline.
As for the racers, they “thought the obstacles were awesome. Some of them said it was the hardest course - many of them were saying it was their favorite (course),” according to Chamber of Commerce President Bobby Caruthers.
He said the fun included mud volleyball, mud bowling and live music for the spectator crowd.
“They also had cornhole games and a bronco bull.”.
“Sumter County was really shown in a very positive light in this event,” he said, adding that some runners came from as far away as Canada and New York. “We wanted people to see what Sumter County was all about.”
Caruthers ran the course too and said the “biggest surprise of the day was an approximately 30-foot slide.” Once on top, there was a platform and only one way down – the slide into a pond.
“When we hit the water, it was cold.”
He said the idea came up last year through one of the board members who had participated in a crawl somewhere else.“We looked into it and saw people were going to them and having fun doing it, so we thought why not?”
According to Merritt, the first person arrived at about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday and the first racer at 6:30 a.m. The first wave of racers took off at 8 a.m. and groups went out every 30 minutes after that, until 1:30 p.m.
The shortest time overall male went to John McQuillen of Lakeland with 34:47 seconds; the fastest time to a woman went to Sally Chappel with 43:90 seconds.
Entry fees were based on early bird dates, heros (law enforcement, fire rescue, etc.) and team, but the fee for an individual averaged $55 per person and all the funds will be used to benefit the Chamber of Commerce.
Spectators paid a $5 entry fee per person and could participate in the tug of war, mud volleyball and other challenges. Guests could even rent golf carts to ride the course for a better look.
“It was overwhelmingly successful,” said Merritt.
They were overwhelmed not only by the success of the event and by the businesses in our county coming together to make it happen, she said.
“It took an army to make this happen.”She pointed out that participation in cowboy crawls have skyrocketed in the past three years, so there’s a need for something unique about the course.
Merritt believes that’s exactly what Sumter had.
“Part of the success of the event and what it made different than any other,” she said, is that 25 of Florida’s top builders came together to make the obstacles.
“They worked for weeks designing their obstacles,” she said, explaining they wanted to outdo one another. They designed the obstacles, provided materials, paid for their construction and then manned the site during the race, she said.
Because they’re builders, they also built to code.
Along with the challenge of the course, competitors got a chance to see herds of deer running and even some wild hogs as they made took their paces.
T&D and the Yoder family were very instrumental in making the event happen, according to Merritt and Caruthers.
Terry Yoder, who organized the building groups said, “We have to think about our future here. We have to set an example for the surrounding counties.”
“We need to help and support our chamber and local businesses and we need to set the bar. I though it was a great event, a great benefit for the Chamber. We all worked together and we did good.”
Merritt said the Chamber was invited to use the ranch by the Carter family – the property is owned by Maurey L. Carter and Associates