BIG LAKE — Hundreds flocked to Big Lake as the incredibly popular mud volleyball tournament hosted by the Big Lake Lions in it’s 32nd year was won by Fisher’s Fuel late on Sunday afternoon after a long weekend of dirty, muddy fun.
The West Lakes Fire Department began volunteering their services to transport water from Big Lake into the four pits that would quickly become full of mud and muddy volleyball players for the tournament that helps support the community of Big Lake.
“When you get down to the end, it’s who’s sober, who’s serious, and who wants to take home the cup. Literally, a beer mug is the cup,” said event coordinator Jaime Estes.
Drew Ford and the rest of his Fisher’s Fuel teammates still had enough energy after more than eight hours of volleyball in the mud to splash water and celebrate with emphatic high-fives and bear hugs. Fisher’s Fuel took the cup for the third year in a row.
“You don’t have to be good at volleyball, go throw the ball over and everyone’s dirty,” said Ford.
Fisher’s Fuel took out Bad Intentions to retain their crown for the third straight year in a row. Fisher’s Fuel was also part of the group of local community members and businesses who donated their time to build the pits that were home to over 700 rowdy volleyball players over the weekend. Miranda Hocker is part of the core group of the team that has been playing together year after year for the camaraderie and the competition.
But mostly just as an excuse to get dirty.
“I was on the Gorilla Fireworks team when I was 18, we won that year. We stacked our team hardcore, but we won and that was when I first fell in love with mud volleyball,” Hocker said.
None of the volleyball players got rained on, although an ominous cloud threatened play late Sunday evening. Since Estes took over organizing the event three years ago, she has made some changes. Estes added two additional pits, allowing for more players to use the space all day. Estes also added a deejay who kept the remaining crowd, sober and otherwise moving through the afternoon. Fisher’s Fuel, Big Lake Rental and members of the Big Lake Lions volunteered time and equipment to build the pits on Saturday before they were filled early Sunday morning. The atmosphere of freedom in Big Lake included a crowded parking lot full of RV’s, ATV’S, and even some experimental 4x4 vehicles. The economic impact of 71 teams of 10 players to the community of Big Lake is not lost on Estes.
“Three bears sponsors a pit. They have a team that plays and they do that because they see that our event brings people here and brings people into the stores,” Estes said. “To make a difference in my community is what I’m after. I’ve lived in Big Lake my entire life. I am a third generation Lion and I have been involved for the last 12 years, so I just want to make sure that Big Lake is a good wholesome community to grow up in and putting on mud volleyball and all the money we raise goes right back into the community.”
Estes sees competitors who enjoy showing up and getting dirty with their friends and others who come out each year with aspirations to win. Some stay sober, many enjoy the food trucks, and every one of the 710 people get to enjoy getting dirty in a truly Alaskan atmosphere.
The town of Bethel sent two different teams to compete, and competitors even came from the Lower 48. Mud Volleyball initially got its start as a way for Big Lake to raise money for a new fire boat 32 years ago, and continues to help support the community of Big Lake today.
“There’s a lot of youth here, and to make sure that they have something constructive to do to make them well rounded citizens is important because obviously there’s a lot of issues in our society, so to give them somewhere to go is huge,” Estes said.