EAST DUBLIN — A strange transformation of the social order takes place here every July.
When Buckeye Park hosts the Summer Redneck Games, tacky becomes chic.
People with missing teeth smile wide and show the gaps proudly. Men with pear-shaped physiques dance like maniacs wearing nothing but cut-off jeans and Confederate flag caps. Grandmothers dive into a giant mud pit.
Journalists from all over the world descend on the scene with high-tech equipment to capture real rednecks in action, following their every move as if they were movie stars on Oscar night.
At the 15th Redneck Games, which took place Saturday, video crews for German and Australian TV shows covered events like bobbin’ for pig’s feet and redneck horseshoes (which uses toilet seats instead of horseshoes).
“It’s really recognized worldwide,” said Freddie Baugus, president of the East Dublin Lions Club. The games began as a radio station’s spoof of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, but the event is now run by the Lions Club as a fundraiser for the club’s charitable efforts, which include providing children with glasses.
“We’ve got a crew from Japan here — I just talked to them,” Baugus said. “We’ve got people from England and some from France. I’ve done interviews on live radio in Spain and England. They all want to know what a redneck is. I tell them it’s just an average person having a good time, that’s my definition of a redneck.”
Organizers could not provide a crowd estimate for Saturday’s event, but Baugus said they typically draw 5,000 to 7,500 people. On a day when the temperature reached about 95 degrees, attendees listened to country and rock music from a variety of bands, bought food and souvenirs from a variety of vendors and splashed in the Oconee River at the bottom of the park’s boat ramp. Some slid down a muddy path on the riverbank, otter-style.
People were permitted to bring coolers to the park, and almost everybody toted a beer can in a koosie. Attire was dominated by Confederate flag motifs, bathing suits, cutoffs and T-shirts with risque slogans. “Git-er-done” was a popular rallying cry.
A cast of regular characters made the experience complete. Slender and shirtless Preston Wright of Eastman ceremoniously started the games by lighting a grill with a torch made of beer cans. Frank “Freight Train” Mills of Cobbtown served as wisecracking emcee. (His nickname comes from a sound effect he makes with his mouth, which contains no teeth.) Barbara “Redneck Grandma” Bailey of Wrightsville wore a dress she made herself out of six Confederate flags and posed for photos with whomever asked. Rob and Rawni Sprague, whose wedding at the Redneck Games two years ago was featured on CMT, made an appearance.
Then there were the competitions.
Eight-year-old Aubrey Matthews of Braselton defended his title in the armpit serenade, playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on his armpit as well as the back of his knee.
The bobbin’ for pigs feet event was won by Martin Souster, 24, of Oxford, England, who pulled seven pigs feet out of a tub of water in 20 seconds using only his teeth.
Souster said his strategy was to “go for the toes.”
Souster found out about the Redneck Games while surfing the Internet last year and decided to make a visit to East Dublin a part of his planned yearlong world tour.
“I’ve had this in my sights ever since,” he said, holding a trophy capped with a crushed beer can.