Northern Mud Fest on hold for now

Benny Westcott

As is the case with other regular local events, the annual Northern Farms Mud Fest’s 2021 festival is in jeopardy.

Due to COVID-induced mass gathering restrictions, the annual event, which typically takes place on the first weekend in March, will be delayed, and might not happen at all in 2021, according to Donnie Wagner, who took over organization of the event last year.

Asked about the odds of the Holley-area festival happening in 2021, Wagner, of All or Nothing Promotions, the company that puts on the event, said “It’s 50-50. I don’t really know. If we can get a mass-gathering permit, it’s 100%. It all depends on how COVID works its way out.”

The mass gathering permit that would be required is a necessity under current law in order to put on events with over 500 people. Wagner said he doesn’t know of any event actually obtaining such a permit recently, because it would “go against county standards.”

The Northern Farms Mud Fest started last year after the Santiam Four Wheel Drive Association did not hold its annual Mud Fest, which had been in various locations around Sweet Home for more than 40 years.

The event offers four-wheel drive enthusiasts the chance to test their vehicles on mud-soaked courses. It features local food vendors, and prizes are given out for the fastest course times. Participants attempt to maneuver their vehicles over bounty holes and mud pits, attempt hill climbs, and generally drive through slick and varied terrain. In 2018, the event sold just over 2,000 tickets. 

Wagner said he’s eager to put the event on and “we’ve thought of a million ways to try and get around it.”

But his company and the Northern Farms owners “came to the conclusion that it’s not worth the penalty to try to have it without the proper permits.”

“We’ve even thought about calling it a protest,” he said. “We’ve seen other people have stuff that was a gathering, protesting the fact that we’re all shut down. But if the county or the governor of the state determines that that is not a valid point on their side, then they can fine you for that. And nobody’s in it to get a fine.”

Wagner said putting on the event in the fall would be a possibility. And he thinks that even with potential COVID concerns, the event would still draw crowds if it was allowed to be staged.

“Once we can have that permit issued to us, it won’t take us long to get it rounded up and get the word out, and everybody’s itching to go play,” he said.

“It will happen when we can get a permit,” Wagner said of the festival. “It’s not canceled, it’s just delayed. We’re not going to do anything until the county has issued us a permit. Whenever that can happen, we will make arrangements to have a late Mud Fest.”