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Grand Forks city leaders say mud run participants don’t have to wear life jackets in Red

Against the advice of the police and fire chiefs, a Grand Forks City Council committee recommended allowing participants in an upcoming race to swim across the Red River without requiring life jackets.

The Service/Safety Committee said Tuesday that the city should waive a law banning swimming in the river for the Extreme North Dakota Uff Da Mud Run on Sept. 6.

The run is an approximately 5K obstacle race that crosses along the Greenway in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Grand Forks fire Chief Peter O’Neill and police Chief Mike Kirby wanted participants to be required to wear life jackets. They said multiple law enforcement agencies from both sides of the river agreed.

“We have a lot of concern,” O’Neill said.

In last year’s Uff Da Mud Run, the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department pulled 12 swimmers out of the river, O’Neill said. Swimming across the river is at the end of the race, when participants are likely most tired, he added.

But the 12 swimmers pulled out of the river were a minority compared to the 685 people total in the race, said Andy Magness, an organizer for the event.

“We had 673 people cross the river, including many children, without incident,” he said.

Event organizers are further emphasizing the difficulty of the river swim this year, he said, including a warning online where people sign up for the race.

There will be two lifeguards instead of one this year, and the sheriff’s department will still be on site as a precaution, he said.

Also, race organizers will bring their 40 life jackets for participants to use on a first come, first served basis, he said.

Kirby and O’Neill still reiterated their request for life jackets.

“Your fire chief would feel a lot better if you made them mandatory,” O’Neill said.

Council member Crystal Schneider moved to allow use of the river without life jackets, and Terry Bjerke, the only other council member there to vote, agreed.

“I think we should let people decide for themselves,” Bjerke said after the meeting. “It’s important to have safety, but Andy’s right, most people were fine last year.”

The full council will make the final decision Monday.

Call Haley at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1102; or send email to

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
(701) 780-1102