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Playing a dirty game of volleyball in W. Chicago
By Ann Piccininni | Daily Herald Correspondent

Reed-Keppler Park in West Chicago played host Sunday to a mud volleyball tournament as part of the Railroad Days festival.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Stephany Wasquez of West Chicago cleans up after playing in a mud volleyball tournament Sunday at Reed-Keppler Park as part of West Chicago's annual Railroad Days festival.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/14/2008 12:12 AM

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Mud was in their eyes, their ears, their noses, their hair - really, all over their athletic forms. And the volleyball players in West Chicago's Reed Keppler Park Sunday couldn't have been happier than pigs in, well, mud.

"It's fun. It's a family gathering," said Denise Carranza of West Chicago, who dished out breakfast for her children at a picnic table while her skin and clothes were caked with mud. She had just competed as part of Team Carranza with four brothers and three sisters-in-law in the annual mud volleyball competition, which for many is the highlight each year of the village's Railroad Days festival.

"You can't even move," she said, describing the experience. "The mud is so thick, you're attached to the ground."

Teams of men and women frolicked, mud-soaked, on the five courts set up for the event.

And they weren't afraid to wallow, either.

When game strategy called for it, not one player showed the slightest hesitation when going after an incoming ball.

"We do dive," said Tim Seabolt, of Winfield, captain of the 280 Club team.

The mud volleyball tournament, in its 22nd year, was held on the last day of the weekend festival, which also featured food vendors, music, a parade and fireworks.

Seabolt said his team has been coming back for more grit and grime and volleyball for 16 years.

This year, Seabolt's team included 72-year-old Al Schwind of Roselle, who was playing for the first time in the games, organized by the West Chicago Park District.

Schwind smiled and wiped the mud from his sunglasses.

A few feet away, an open-air shower jetted clean water from nine spigots onto players who tried to remove the mud, often in vain.

Delise Memler, of Winfield, stood on the sidelines, pristine, while her husband, Doug, got on the court.

She described how, earlier, truckloads of dirt were shipped into the park. Then the volleyball courts' perimeters were sandbagged. Finally, the magic ingredient, water, turned dusty courts into sticky sinkholes of slime.

She said Doug put on socks reinforced with duct tape for the occasion, like many other players. The couple's children, barred from competing because they are under 18, managed to find mud near the courts to wade in and tumble through.

"I brought my kids out in old clothes," she said. "They'll throw them out when they get home."

Getting home, she said, is no easy trick with a family full of mud people.

"We bring lots of towels," she said. "At home, I just hose them down, send them through the garage and into the shower."