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Party in the Park
Family-friendly fun abundant at day-long event
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The inflatable obstacle in the Tuff Enuff Obstacle Run proved to be challenging to adults, but for young runners, it was a chance to get an edge on the competition. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

Saturday morning, the mud, goo, and foam was flying at Great Bend’s Veterans’ Memorial Park as over 200 runners participated in the Tuff Enuff Obstacle Run.     It was the kick-off to the third annual Party in the Park, which featured the run, mud volleyball tournament, dog park fun, and much more.  
“Running by itself isn’t as big a draw as it once was, so many larger cities are adding obstacles to make races more interesting,” said Club 1 Fitness Director Chris Berger.  The fitness center co-sponsored the run with the City of Great Bend.  “We wanted a scaled-down version of a Tough Mudder run that the whole family could come out and enjoy.”  
There were kids as young as three and adults well into their 50s running together as individuals or teams of four, and from the smiles and laughter witnessed at each obstacle and at the finish line, they had a great time.  
A group of Young Professionals of Barton County ran together as a team, wearing matching shirts proclaiming, “We’re here to warm up for the YP5K.”  Jean Aycock, one of the team members explained the group will holding a 5K and half-marathon in Oct. 10 in Great Bend.  Berger pointed out the that activities like Party in the Park and the upcoming race are giving younger adults moving to Great Bend something fun to do.  
A team of women sporting shirts that read, “Strong is Pretty,” reached the finish line.   
“It’s the new quote,” Berger said.  “It’s about being fit, not skinny.  Its not about what the scale says, its about how you feel, that power and that confidence inside.”
One group of children, running as “The Fantastic Four,” included one little guy who wanted to take part at the last minute.  They posed at the finish line covered in suds, looking a little worn out, but also looking forward to jumping in the clean-off pool where they could rinse away the mud, goo and grass they’d picked up along the way.  
This year’s run included three new obstacles: a second climbing wall, pools of goo, and stepping stones.  In addition, the foam pit at the finish line was improved.  Instead of a tank, a stream of foamy suds poured out of an industrial bubble-maker, covering half a tennis court.  As runners reached the finish line, they had to cross the foam, digging around on the ground for medals, and then it was a trip to the winner’s circle for a photo taken by city employees.  
Christina Hayes, Great Bend’s community coordinator, said each obstacle was put through extensive testing the day before the race by city employees.  
“It was an absolute blast,” she said.  An informal poll of runners picked the slippery slide as the top rated obstacle, while the mud pits were a close second.  Many runners, in fact, said they wanted to go back and experience them a second time.  The inflatable obstacles proved to be a challenge, as runners attempted to negotiate their way over, under and through the maze while covered in mud, soap and grass.  
Even though the turnout was a little lower than last year’s event, Berger and Hayes agreed it met the mark for family-friendly fun they were shooting for.  
“I want the kids to be able to say, ‘do you remember when we did that when we were little?’” Hayes said.    “As long as we’re creating events where families can make memories together, I feel good about what we’re doing.”  
As temperatures climbed over 100 degrees, the volleyball tournament never let up.  In the afternoon, the classic car show on the south side of the park began to take shape, and mid-afternoon, brave, hungry souls made their way to the Oreo cookie eating contest.  Individuals and couples in two classes, over 17 and under 17, put their jaws and their tummies to the test to see who could consume an entire three-sleeved package of Double-stuff Oreo cookies the fastest.  Contestants could choose between water or milk for a chaser.  No hands were allowed in the individual contest, and couples had to feed each other.  After adults struggled through a package, Hayes made a last-minute decision and kids under 17 were allowed to take out one sleeve of their package.  In the end, three trophies were awarded.  
Business olympics and car judging were held later in the afternoon, and in the evening, those with orange bracelets made their way to the ball field at Veterans’ Memorial Park to watch the evening’s entertainment.  Bands Homebrew and Liverpool performed, with a fireworks show planned to take place during the intermission.  
Party in the Park is sponsored by the City of Great Bend and the Great Bend Recreation Commission, with special thanks to Club 1 Fitness, Great Bend Optimist Club, American Legion Riders Post 180, Waters True Value, Harper Camperland, Sunflower Rod and Custom Association, Vintage Wheels of Great Bend, Santa Fe Trail Auto Club, Mid-America Mopars, Jackson Motorsports, Great Bend Redi-mix, Suchy Construction and Chlumsky’s Liquor.