Report says Mud Fest found to be non-compliant with variance

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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Sheriff Michel Wetzel’s after-action report for Mud Fest outlined areas of concern for the Morrison County Commissioners at a monthly planning meeting, June 6.

Mud Fest attendance was substantially lower than in previous years.

There was a new event at Mud Fest this year over Memorial Day weekend, a timed race. “The deputies onsite said it looked like a ‘problem waiting to happen,’” Wetzel said.

The deputies observed trucks going quite fast, and many went airborne with trees on both sides. According to the report, deputies felt this new event was quite dangerous.

“The main problem was that the staging area was poorly used or not used at all,” said Wetzel. “Ralph [Rinkel] claimed he did not have to comply with the conditions in the variance if there were fewer than 500 people in attendance. That is incorrect; if someone is under a permit, they must comply with conditions.”

When asked how many people were in attendance, Rinkel could not say. People were not being counted; just vehicles were tallied.

“But what really alarmed us were the trucks driving back and forth to campsites,” Wetzel said. As listed in the conditions to the variance, this was strictly prohibited.

A major concern is the decision made by the Rinkels to ignore the conditions they had previously agreed to in their safety plan, in reference to trucks not being allowed to leave the staging area and return to campgrounds. This did not appear to be an oversight or an isolated incident but rather a conscious decision on their part.

“Another concern was a situation when a Morrison County deputy happened upon a discussion between the Rinkels and Security Specialists employees onsite about whether to send someone to detox. The person’s preliminary breath test (PBT) reading was more than 3.0, so the deputy overruled the others and took the person to detox,” Wetzel said.

Three deputies reported hearing from Mud Fest participants who thanked them for banning all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) from the grounds. The individuals stated that the serious mud truck participants did not like ATVs roaming all over, and felt that having them gone was an improvement.

“I don’t know what to do about a guy who decides unilaterally not to abide by a permit after he was part of the agreement,” said Wetzel.

“It continues to be an issue year after year, and we have to sit down with Ron Rinkel and come to some type of an arrangement so that a safe and successful event can occur,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber.