Take several thousand Southerners, mix in lots of mud and pork products, toss in a few toilet seats, and what do you get? The Redneck Games, of course!
Launched in 1996, the games have become an annual tradition, drawing over 10,000 people to tiny East Dublin, GA (pop. 2,500). "That year we had the Olympics in Atlanta and yachting in Savannah," recalls Jeff Kidd, program director at WQZY, a local radio station that dreamed up the Dixieland lampoon. "East Dublin's right between them, so our station manager came up with a way to make fun of both and put the spotlight on our town at the same time."
Indeed. The Redneck Games proudly flaunt stereotypes of rural Southerners as illiterate hillbillies, opening with the ceremonial running of the propane torch (made of beer cans) and the lighting of the barbecue. Attendees compete in "sports" like the mud-pit belly flop, redneck horseshoes (played with toilet seats), and bobbing for pig's feet; winners get trophies topped with more beer cans. It's all in jest, and all proceeds go to local charities.
In other ways, the event defies expectations. "You'd be surprised how many African-American attendees we get," notes Kidd, mentioning a new hire at the station who was originally "scared to death" to come but ended up having "a blast," as well as former Dallas Cowboy (and Peach State native) Herschel Walker. "People up North think many Southerners are racists, but it's just not that way," adds Kidd. "Nobody [at the games] says a word about color—if they did, I'd personally escort them out of there."
Kidd's also surprisingly choosy about sponsorship. He gets local musical acts to perform, and though he's had offers from big-name beer companies to bring in headliners, he's turned them all down, claiming he doesn't want to associate alcoholic beverages with the games (notwithstanding all those beer-can trophies): "Despite what you think, there's not a lot of boozing. The event is 100-percent family-oriented, with as many kids attending as adults."
Last year, 15,000 people showed up, but this year, thanks to Hurricane Dennis, attendance was just 6,000. Kidd canceled several events (the hubcap hurl, the armpit serenade) because of heavy rain. Still, the games have clearly hit the big time, with media outlets from Country Music Television to the Tonight Show in attendance. "We got Bobby [actor Steve Schirripa] from The Sopranos," marvels Kidd. "He even did the mud-pit belly flop!"
Now the third-largest public event in Laurens County, the Redneck Games are so successful that Kidd's been asked to speak at the local Rotary Club. What'll he tell the Rotarians? Danged if he knows: "I was lucky to get out of high school," admits Kidd. "I'm just a DJ who has a good time."