Warrior Dash to the Kaufman County Courthouse: Hold On to Your Helmets
[Update at 8 p.m.: I just texted Michael Cramer to see if he was still in the hearing. He replied, just now, "Yes, judge is ruling now. Event is on. We have to stage parking elsewhere though." More to come when he can call.
Update at 8:51 p.m.: Cramer says that "obviously, we don't know where parking will be yet -- this is brand-new to us. The court wants excess, or overflow, parking somewhere offsite. But we want something within three to five miles within the event, and have people park there and hop on a bus and be brought in that way."
I tell him that some comments suggest that while participants are happy the event's a go, they're disappointed that the snafu will result in the lack of a post-race scene -- some folks' reason for attending Warrior Dash.
"But we didn't have a choice," he says. "That's the only thing the judge thought could potentially create an issue on a two-lane road with no improved shoulder with the mass number of people coming out there. We had to take care of that. But it'll be close. It'll be less driving for most, because they'll park closer to the highway. They won't have to drive down that road."
E-mails are forthcoming on the Wen site within the hour, save for specifics about parking, which will not be available till the judge signs off on the final court order, due to her office at 9 a.m. A final update from Red Frog will go out "once the judge signs the order that the event can go on," Cramer says, "so long as we have a plan in place for parking."]
Now, back to the original item: Dallas attorney Michael Cramer is in his car at this very moment, heading toward the Kaufman County Courthouse. Cramer has a date at 9 this morning with County Court at Law Judge Erleigh Norville Wiley, who is -- this morning, at least -- the person who will decide whether or not Warrior Dash takes place this weekend.
Warrior Dash, for the uninitiated, is, put simply, a 3.51-mile long race through 14 slick, fiery and gloriously sloppy obstacles -- "America's most insane race," as it says on the Web site. Viking helmets are the great reward; that, and a single beer. The local event -- which takes place Saturday and Sunday on a course that winds through Forney, Mesquite, Seagoville, unincorporated parcels of Kaufman County and other bits and pieces of Dallas County -- has been sold out for months; 18,000 are expected, thousands from well outside of Texas.
Two weeks ago, Kaufman County Judge Wayne Gent told organizers, at the request of the Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes, they couldn't hold their event -- at least, not in Kaufman County. Gent said the event violates what's called the Texas Mass Gatherings Act, which says 2,500 people cannot congregate for more than five hours in one place. Gent ruled that since Red Frog Events, which puts on Warrior Dash events across the country, didn't have a permit for a mass gathering as defined by state law, well, sorry, event's off.
That was two weeks ago, when Red Frog contacted Cramer. He tells Unfair Park that ever since then, he's been trying to get in front of Gent, who's been out of town. Cramer says the county's using the Mass Gatherings Act to kill the event was wrong-headed enough -- "The race is run in stages -- 500 people every half hour over two days ... this isn't Woodstock." But when he was at the courthouse last week, he also caught wind that Judge Wiley had granted the county and sheriff's department a temporary restraining order, without Red Frog's ever being told of a TRO.
This morning's hearing is an effort to get the TRO tossed out.
"If the judge vacates the restraining order, then my guys will do what it takes to get out there and finish," he says. "It's a race through the field. There's not a whole lot of prep work to do other than put together an obstacle course. They're confident they will have crews out there and will be ready for registration for Friday and the race on Saturday."
What about the Mass Gatherings Act permit, which Judge Gent has already said no to?
Cramer says organizers and vendors have already amassed the proper permits for everything from fireworks to food sales. Cramer will make the case to Wiley this morning that the Mass Gatherings Act doesn't apply. And if the judge doesn't overturn the TRO, Cramer will file an emergency motion with the court of appeals by day's end and hope for a hearing by or before Friday -- which is awful late, given all those folks expected from out of state.
I ask if there's any chance of just moving the entire thing out of Kaufman County altogether?
"One of the contingency plans that has been talked about is moving it all to the Dallas County side, but I don't know if they'd be able to," he says. "They could put directions on the Web site, but I don't know if they could secure a site."
We'll update after the hearing -- which could take an hour or all day.
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