E. Dublin businesses prepare for Redneck Games

EAST DUBLIN — The city’s hotels, all three of them, are booked up. The new liquor store on Main Street is stocking its shelves. The Huddle House is prepping for a big day Saturday.

Must be time for the Summer Redneck Games.

One Saturday every July, an estimated 10,000 rednecks, wannabes and spectators — more than triple the town’s population — roll into Buckeye Park to watch competitors bob for pickled pigs’ feet, hurl toilet seats at horseshoe stakes and dive into the popular Mudpit Belly Flop.

This year's event begins at noon Saturday with the lighting of the ceremonial torch at Buckeye Park. Gates open at 10 a.m. with a $5 admission fee.

The games began as a local radio station’s spoof of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and morphed into a mega-media event. Television crews and newspapers from across the globe have covered it.

“It’s got us on the map, all over the world,” said East Dublin City Administrator Larry Drew.

The city has hosted the event for 11 years, and Drew says it’s a big boost for businesses here, especially the motels, convenience stores and restaurants. But the local chamber of commerce says there’s been no economic impact study done, so there’s really no way to know how much money the games bring to town.

“Every time we have the Redneck Games, we’re busy,” said Vicky Dave, front desk manager at the Ramada Limited. “We’re full this weekend. We tell our guests they can watch the fireworks from here. ... July’s the best month for us.”

Most participants are not local, so the games also send a good number of overnight guests to hotels in neighboring Dublin.

Vinod Patel, owner of Super Foods on Central Drive, estimates the games bring in about $200-$300 in additional sales, mostly gas, beer and ice. He’s hopeful for a good day Saturday, but he’ll be watching, not working.

“I already have a pass,” he said, pulling a VIP badge from behind the counter. “I just drink beer and watch the games all day. It’s a different kind of entertainment.”

The games have certainly made a splash. TV crews from the Travel Channel, Germany, Dublin (Ireland, not the one across the river) and more are in town, Drew said. Hallmark is even sending a photographer from Kansas City, Mo.

“We might see the mud pit splash on Hallmark Cards before long.”

However, if there’s any kind of Belly Flop ripple effect, Clayton Sellers hasn’t felt it at Reece’s Bait and Tackle. Sellers said the only heavy traffic he sees on redneck Saturday is on the street and not in his store.

“They’re not stopping here,” Sellers said.

Debra Ward, manager of the Subway restaurant down the street, also said the games have not brought much business in the three years she’s worked there.

“The first year we prepared for a rush,” Ward said, “but never got it.”

Phillip and Joanne Shivers do expect big things Saturday. They opened the East Side Package store last weekend, and workers were still setting up displays in the new building earlier this week.

Joanne Shivers said the event “does a lot of good for East Dublin.”

The games also do a lot of good for charity. The East Dublin Lions Club, which has handled parking and admission for the event, will run the whole show this year after the radio station dropped its sponsorship.

Past proceeds have been used to buy eyeglasses for local adults and children, and donated to Lions Club efforts supporting eye surgeries, cancer patients, camps and lead dogs for the blind and more.

“It’s all people coming down to have fun,” said Drew. “The true rednecks are here to have fun. I think we locked up four people last year. That’s not many for that many folks down there.”

Perhaps the best gauge of the games’ impact on the local economy might be the Huddle House near the edge of town. After all, what better place is there to unwind after a day of frolicking in the sun and an evening of fireworks?

The restaurant is under new ownership, and manager April Hall says she wasn’t around last year. But sales receipts from last July were strong and an employee who was on duty told Hall the place was hopping.

“She says it was extreme,” Hall said. “You catch it in the morning. You catch it in the evening. You catch it that night.”

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.