ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Thousands of folks from throughout the tri-state area will be "getting their mud on'' this weekend.
For the first time, the highly-popular Tough Mudder is coming to Eastern Ohio.
Powerline Park will play host to the Pittsburgh-area event Saturday and Sunday.
PICTURED?IS one of the many obstacles featured on the Tough Mudder course at?Powerline Park, located near St.?Clairsville. The weekend event is expected to attract some 11,000 participants.
''Things are going great,'' local site general manager Ben Story said Thursday afternoon. ''We have a full crew working hard. We still have a lot to do, but we'll be ready.''
Story estimates nearly 11,000 participants will converge to the Belmont County site Saturday and Sunday. Add in the spectators and that number jumps to nearly 15,000.
''It's just amazing looking at what they've done with this place,'' said Greg Eaton, one of the owners of Powerline Park. ''This is really a unique deal.''
Powerline Park, located just off Interstate 70's Exit 213, is mostly known for its motorcycle and ATV competitions, but this week it's been transformed into a challenging 10- to 12-mile obstacle course.
''It's really overwhelming to look at what they've done,'' Eaton said. ''These people are well-oiled machines. I've been really impressed with this young group of people. They have this down to a science.
''This is not a little deal''
Story said Tough Mudder only stages 35 events in North America annually.
''Powerline has been great to work with,'' he said. ''The property is stunning. It's a great place to put on a Tough Mudder. They have a lot of dynamic terrain and we're excited to be here.''
Everyone will park at the Jamboree in the Hills site along National Road and be bused in to Powerline. Competitors will go through the course at staggered intervals every 20 minutes from 8 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. Saturday and 9 to 10 a.m. Sunday.
Story said Tough Mudder tends to anchor its events to large metropolitan areas, hence this weekend's tied to Pittsburgh. He said the Powerline site was chosen because of its quality and proximity to the Steel City.
''It usually takes 450 acres,'' he said.
The event will be a boom for Belmont County, which already gets a boost each summer from Jamboree in the Hills and the Edgar Martin Beast of the East Baseball Classic.
It was also announced last week the Ohio Lottery game show ''Cash Explosion'' will tape a pair of shows from the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival in late September.
''After checking with our local hotels, we understand they are doing well from this event'' said Eugene ''Doc'' Householder, head of the Belmont County Tourism Council.
Householder said representatives from his office met with Tough Mudder officials months ago to offer their support.
''It's good for the area,'' he said. ''Competitors and spectators alike will be staying overnight in hotels and buying food.
''Belmont County welcomes Tough Mudder!''
And, Story said, if things go well, Tough Mudder will likely be back next year.
''We have that option,'' he said.
Tough Mudder events are hardcore obstacle courses designed to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. It started in 2010 with three events.
''We like to think it's not a race, but a challenge,'' Story said.
He added participants aren't timed, but can choose to do so themselves if they wish.
''It's more about enjoying the moment with friends and coming out to encourage others to overcome challenges,'' Story said.
Obstacle courses are tailored to fit each site, and Story said the St. Clairsville course is one of the muddiest he's seen.
''We came out about three months ago to see the property and started planning things out,'' he said. ''And we've been out there about five weeks.''
More members of the Tough Mudder team arrived this past Sunday to start constructing the numerous obstacles, which Story said are constructed onsite.
''There are different obstacles at every event, but we have some of the same ones that are fan favorites,'' he said.
Wounded Warrior Project is also a presence at every Tough Mudder event. Last year, a projected $4 million was raised for the organization by Tough Mudder.
In addition, BIC Razors will have a tent erected and is encouraging competitors and spectators to stop by and get a head shave, mohawk or mullet. The company has a goal of shaving 10,000 heads this year and is donating $100,000 to the WWP.
Story said while online registration has closed, folks can still register onsite.
For more information, visit www.toughmudder.com
Thorp can be reached at email@example.com