NORTH CONWAY — New stairs at Hog Coliseum, halftime piggyback games, a women’s mud football tournament, cheerleading-in-the-mud routines, a parade and 12 exciting men’s teams will highlight Mud Bowl this weekend, when the World Championships of Mud Football event brings plenty of messy joy to Mudville this weekend.
The 20-game, 12-team, double-elimination tournament splashed off Friday.
In addition to local media, on hand to cover the weekend’s color is a four-person film production crew shooting footage for a Voice of America Korea program to be featured on Facebook.
Associate Producer Hyunji Park of Fish & Net Productions based in Fort Lee, N.J., said the “Walk Into America” episode should be posted “in about two weeks.” Other members of her crew include Director/Producer Brian Kim and actors Donguno Kang and Joseph Im, the latter of whom hope to get into the mud, playing for a few teams.
They began their coverage Thursday interviewing local players, and filmed the tilling of the mud in a tractor loaned by Sherman Farm of East Conway, operated by Jeff Hatch, with the film crew joining in on watering duties.
North of the field, and kicking off today’s schedule is the 37th annual Tournament of Mud Parade at 10 a.m. down North Conway’s Main Street to the judges’ reviewing stand in front of the North Conway Train Station.
Sponsored by Amoskeag Beverages LLC of Bow — overall sponsors of Mud Bowl for 40 years — the parade will award prizes to the top floats in the team class and the top entrant in the open class.
Parade chair Josh Snell and Mud Bowl secretary Monica Belkin of the Mudbassadors said the parade will feature first responders as grand marshals, with police, fire and rescue squad members riding in vehicles furnished by the MWV Old Car Club, which is holding its annual car show at Settlers Green this Sunday.
The parade has a “Mudeo Game” theme this year, with teams celebrating such video games as Frogger, Ms. Pac Man, Super Mario, Angry Birds, Madden NFL, Pong, Donkey Kong, Pokemon and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Add to that the North Conway Fire Department Color Guard, Kennett High Drum Line and KHS Dance Team, and you’ve the makings for a great parade. Also on hand, the Miller Lite Girls viewing from in front of Horsefeathers.
After today’s parade, the focus moves to Hog Coliseum for the mud football action, and judging by Friday’s first round of play, it ought to be a doozie.
(For Friday’s scores and today’s match-ups, for six scheduled games beginning at 12:15 p.m. and continuing through 6:30 p.m., and for Sunday’s eight games concluding with the finals at 3:30 p.m., go to facebook.com/mud-bowl.org or zortsports.com.)
Three local squads are among the teams: 11-time champion Mount Washington Valley Hogs, two-time champion North Country Crocs and the North Conway Mud Things.
Teams from outside the valley include the defending 20-time champion Muddas Football Club of Amherst; eight-time champion Nashua Mud Gumbys; 2005 champion North Shore Mud Sharks of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire; 2001 champion New Hampshire Mudcats; Carrabassett Valley Rats (founders of the sport of mud football in Kingfield, Maine, in 1972); Jack’s Predators; the Rowley Mud Ducks; and the Massachusetts Mud Dogs (all from the North Shore); and the Cumberland (R.I.) Muckaneers.
At the Western Maine Mud Football Championships in July in Kingfield, Maine, the Muddas won it all, defeating a team made up of former Nashua Mud Gumby veterans.
“The Crocs and Hogs both lost tight contests in the semi-finals. This should be a great North Conway tournament,” said Crocs’ quarterback Jason Veno of Conway.
Based on what he saw in Kingfield, Veno is predicting some close battles.
“I think we’re in for a very good, competitive tournament,” said the Crocs co-captain, who said four teams to watch out for are the Crocs, Hogs, Muddas and Mud Sharks.
He said the Crocs are pretty much the same competitive squad the team has field since its inception. The roster includes Scott Butters and Chris Olds, Clayton Chase, Ryan Martin, Ben Day, Justin Moore, Doug Hart, Joe Monza, Matt Ashnault, Chris Gowin, Brandon Hamilton, James Duke, Phil Hamilton, Shane Skowronski, Greg Allain, George Wegricht, Tom Donovan and Dustin Simpson-Bragg.
The Mud Sharks now feature former Gumbys’ quarterback Christopher “Cleatus” Cayer, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, so that ups the ante, noted Veno, who is a 2013 Mud Bowl Hall of Fame inductee, member of the Mud Bowl Committee and regional sales representative for Amoskeag Beverages.
The MWV Hogs — who last brought home the bacon in 1992 — are co-captained by six-year veteran Tom Vestal and seven-year veteran quarterback Tommy Wagner, as Josh McAllister has passed the Hogs torch onto the younger players.
“The Hogs’ team chemistry is the best I’ve seen it in my six years of playing.” Vestal said. “I’m looking forward to bringing the title back to the hometown team in 2019.”
Other Hogs include offensive players Nick Lieberman, Rob Peterson, Tony Day, Wayne Wright and newcomer Nick Masse. The receiving corps features Hall of Famers Mike Malkin and J.M. Pearson with Timmy Flynn, Seth Shackford, Zac Quinn and rookie Drew McDonald. The Hogs’ defense consists of Quinn, Dan Spofford, Connor MacDonald, Carl Iacozili, Flynn, Casey Sandman, Seth Shackford and Chris Smith.
For the defending champion Muddas, it’s all about family: They are led by quarterback Jason Holder and defensive ace Ryan Holder, sons of legendary, and still-active, Mud Bowler Jason “Dr. J” Holder.
At last year’s Mud Bowl, the No. 1 seeded Muddas defeated the No. 2-seeded North Shore Mud Sharks 38-6.
The Mud Things are the third local team. Added in 2017, they include Joe McCusker, Jared Doherty, Jay Baker, Nick Woods, Preacher Dave Albert, Jared Burke, Connor Wright, Colt Whitten, Ben Fredette and Blair Lynch.
This year’s all-new women’s tourney features four teams — including the MerMuds and MudMaids, who played in an exhibition match last year.
They are being joined by a women’s team from the Massachusetts Mud Dogs and an as-yet unnamed fourth team.
The losing women’s teams from Friday’s opening matches will play in women’s Game 3, set for today at 11:45 a.m. and the women’s championship game is Sunday at 3 p.m. prior to the Mud Bowl men’s final at 3:30 p.m.
Regarding the women’s games, local enthusiast Katelyn Quint says her fellow players are ready to go following their exhibition debut in the mud last year.
“After our premier year in 2018, the MudMaids and MerMuds are back in action again, and really looking forward to some more female competition!” she said. “We are ready to make a comeback to hopefully spark even more female interest to get in the mud and play some ball!”
MerMuds players include Lauren Purtell, Tamara Wood, Amanda King, Liz Widmer, Ally Kayrah, Ellen Best, Nicole Mahan, Mary Fisher, Mel Gregory, Maura Sutton and Julie Hill.
In addition to Quint, members of the MudMaids are Sarah Baker, Kelly Peckham, Bethany Moller, Jess Maura, Coey Littlefield, Amanda Royce, Meg Allen, Kayla Allen, Kat McCusker and Alyssa Chick.
Cheerleading squads, to name a few, include the MWV Hoggettes, Lady Crocs, Gumbyettes, Muddettes, Muddy Things Cheerleaders and Mudbassadors.
The Hoggettes are led by Becca Deschenes, marketing director at Cranmore Mountain Resort, and a gifted vocalist for the local band, Rek-lis — as a soloist Deschenes often sings “The Star Spangled Banner” for each year’s Mud Bowl games.
The Hoggettes’ roster includes a mix of Hall of Famers, veterans and rookies. In addition to Deschenes, they are Michaela Brotherton, Tori Belkin, Tara Hoyt and Ali Harris.
The Hoggettes will be supporting the Hogs from the sidelines throughout the weekend and also will be making appearances including supporting the Hogs in the annual Mud Bowl parade this morning and the halftime show in the afternoon.
The Hoggettes are excited to jump in the mud for the 2019 powder puff tournament on Saturday afternoon.
“We are looking forward to another fun-filled muddy weekend of football and fundraising,” said team captain Deschenes. “We’ve built a great squad over the past few years, and the energy that entire team brings on and off the sidelines is incredible.
“They’ve all worked so hard to make Mud Bowl 2019 the best yet,” she continued. “Our No. 1 goal is to support Mud Bowl to the fullest extent so that local charities come out on top … Giving back is of utmost importance to us and is the reason why we are all here.”
The Mudbassadors are led by Monica Belkin.
“Since Mud Bowl started, women have always been included,” she noted, adding, “Cheerleaders are often credited with being the masterminds behind great floats, choreographing mud routines, interacting with the fans and providing encouragement on the sidelines.
“Routines in the mud are usually performed by the Mudbassadors, Hoggettes, Muddas and Gumbys. Although the Mudbassadors are not attached to an actual team, in addition to performing, we are around all three days helping wherever possible to keep the event running smoothly; like folding T-shirts, doing chain gang and most importantly running registration,” Belkin said.
“This year they have also added selling raffle tickets for the Mud Bowl Quilt.”
She adds, “The Mudbassador team has changed over the years, but their dedication to the event has remained constant.”
The 2019 Mudbassadors include Belkin, Darlene Noyes and Ruth Barone (all Hall of Famers), Michele Abracinskas, Renee Ricker, Andrea Martin, Brittany Downing and Leeanna Bushey.
In addition to all the exciting mud football action, new this year will be many halftime competitions, including piggyback races and spouse-carrying races from end zone to end zone.
Other highlights include a Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday at approximately 2 p.m.
Among those to be inducted is the late Bob “Tanaka” Tara of the Hogs, a gentle giant of a man off the field and former local bartender at the Alpine, Bradstreet’s and Barnaby’s. He starred as a Hogs linebacker who will be honored posthumously for his stellar blocking plays for the championship Hogs teams from 1975 to the mid-1980s. He will be inducted by Mud Bowl MWV Hogs Hall of Famers Fred Jones and David Cianciolo of Badger Realty and early Hogs derfensive ace Curt Bartlett.
As Hogs Hall of Famer Rickie Tibbetts recalls, “I scored the only TD in 1975 on the first play of the game (in the Hogs’ first trip to Sugarloaf in Maine, founders of the sport of Mud Bowl in 1972). As I was running around the corner there was a Rat right in front of me but Tanaka made him disappear right off the field with a vicious block, and I went the whole length of the field. Those were the days.”
Those attending the games will no doubt be impressed with the spiffy new steps at Hog Coliseum, which replaced the worn-out steps dating back to when Hog Coliseum was built by the hometown Mount Washington Valley Hogs and community volunteers in 1981.
Working on this year’s effort was a group of local Hogs, Crocs and Mud Things and Mud Bowl Committee member/parade chair Josh Snell, said Crocs co-captain Chris Olds, a local electrician who is a member of the Mud Bowl Committee.
“The initial work was started by a small group of Hogs and Crocs, and the balance of the work was finished Saturday of Labor Day weekend by a large group including Hogs, Crocs, Things and committee members as part of an annual work day,” said Olds.
Materials were purchased from funds raised earlier this summer at a fundraiser with Flatbread Co. set up and run by the committee.
“Hopefully it will be a repair to Hog Coliseum that will be beneficial for years to come,” said Olds.
Back to handle the play-by-play and parade announcing is 2009 Hall of Famer Jon Belkin with Brian Martin, with Nick Revell. handling the timekeeping duties.
In other news, a Mud Bowl Scholarship will also be awarded Saturday. A Mud Bowl Ball Toss will be held for children Sunday.
Mud Bowl quilt raffle tickets are being sold at Mud Bowl and Saturday night at Horsefeathers. Prices are three for $5 and seven for $10. The drawing will be held at Horsefeathers Saturday evening. For raffle ticket information, call (603) 356-2096.
Souvenir programs are now available in town and at the North Conway Community Center. Pick one up for all the details. Volunteers are needed and appreciated.
Money raised is donated to the North Conway Community Center, Vaughan Learning Center and Carroll County Retired Senior Volunteer Program, as well as other non-profits in the Mount Washington Valley.
Each $15 ticket ensures entrance into the games Friday, Saturday and Sunday and doubles as a raffle ticket for a $500 prize on Saturday and Sunday.
Day tickets are $6 for ages 14 and up and $4 for ages 6 to 13. A family package are also available (two adults and two children) for $15 per day.