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Over, under, sideways, down in Walpole

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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff

The road to Jarvis Farm, the Walpole Recreation Department’s new gem of a property, is a dirt path surrounded on all sides by greenery. So dense and lush is the canopy at times that it feels as though one is driving in a tunnel hewn directly through the trees. Then, the path suddenly opens up, revealing what used to be the Sharon Country Day Camp. There are cabins, a swimming hole, a gigantic field, and today, a massive obstacle course. Not to mention hundreds of kids and their parents.

It is something of an anomalous Sunday at the Farm, but a rather fun one. The kids and their parents are here for the Second Annual Jarvis Farm Obstacle Challenge, and there’s excitement in the air.

“I’m here with my husband and my two boys, Theo, who’s 10, and Owen is eight,” says Lisa Yetman, who scans the contours of the massive course. “They love to run, and we saw there was going to be an obstacle course, and they would have fun getting muddy and wet.”

“I think that’s what he’s going to enjoy the most,” adds Amy Hughes, whose eight-year-old son, Jack, is also throwing his hat into the ring. “He’s a little nervous. He thinks he’s going to do okay, because there’s a lot of stuff. He’s into the obstacles, not so much the running.”

Luckily for Jack - and his like-minded peers - there are plenty of obstacles to encounter. There are tires to hop through. A yoga ball gauntlet. Things to climb over and under. A massive improvised slip ‘n’ slide. There are even squirt guns available for spectators to take aim at their favorite runners.

Oh yeah, and there’s also a mud pit, conveniently located right by the finish line.

“It’s all about the mud,” says race director Joe Grant, who puts massive courses like these together for a living.

“The mud is the coup d’etat,” he continues. “We get ‘em wet [on the slip ‘n’ slide], then have them crawl through the mud, then go to the finish line. It’s the complete opposite of what we should be doing, but that’s what we love.” Behind him, a volunteer waters down the mud pit. Grant and his crew are not messing around. This is good clean fun, all right - sans the clean.

Reminded that this meticulously-constructed course seems almost too perfect, all he can do is smile. “Listen, I don’t sleep,” he says, beaming with pride as he begins to excuse himself. There is a starting line of eager five-year-olds waiting to have their go at the Jarvis Farm circuit.

For the remains of the day, wave after wave of runners, concluding with an adult wave around noon, will make their way through the course.

“I do love my job,” says Grant. He mentions he expects to get around 200 racers at this year’s event, but immediately stops himself. “I’d do it for 20,” he qualifies. “I don’t care. It’s just fun. Everyone needs a little fun.”

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