HEBRON, Maine — The games formerly known as the “Redneck Olympics” are gearing up, with hundreds setting up campers and tents on Harold Brooks’ land and cracking open beers.
This year, the Redneck “Blank” will get a big boost with coverage from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which is bringing its penchant for poking fun at absurdity to the Redneck “Olympics,” as well as to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s order for Brooks to stop using the word “Olympics.”
On Friday, “Daily Show” correspondent Jason Jones interviewed Brooks in his garage with a production team on hand. Jones asked Brooks the difference between the games in Hebron and the games in London. For one, Brooks said, most competitors at the Redneck games have a can of beer in hand.
Instead of swimming and tennis, Redneck “Olympians” will compete in bobbing for pigs’ feet, flinging toilet-seat horseshoes, pie-eating, wife-carrying, a tire-trot beer chug, greased watermelon haul, tug-of-mud war and mud-flopping.
Brooks also explained the difference between a wet T-shirt contest and Saturday night’s “Very wet T-shirt contest.”
Jones asked Brooks whether he thought people might confuse the two events, and whether he felt calling his event “Redneck Olympics” might dilute the Olympics brand.
Near the end, Jones told Brooks that “The Daily Show” would give this weekend’s games full coverage, with “all the pomp and circumstance” of NBC’s Olympics coverage. The film crew will remain Saturday to capture the wife-carrying, mud-flopping and beer-chugging in all its glory.
Another thing it’ll have in common with NBC’s coverage: Viewers will have to wait. Producer Ian Berger said the Redneck Olympics segment probably will air Thursday night.
Brooks said “The Daily Show” first contacted him last year, after the USOC’s order that he stop using the word “Olympics,” but he didn’t know for sure if they would come this year until a few days ago.
“The whole thing went awesome,” Brooks said. “It’s amazing to get that kind of attention.” He said he expects the show will make fun of him, but he doesn’t mind at all. “That’s what they do.”
“The Daily Show” is watched by more than 2 million people and has won two Peabody Awards and 16 Emmys.
Brooks’ feud with the USOC began the day after the Redneck Olympics ended last summer. He grudgingly changed the name of his event to the “Redneck Blank” to avoid a lawsuit, with a name that referenced the fact that he’s being censored.
The U.S. Amateur Sports Act of 1978 gives the USOC exclusive rights to the word “Olympics” in the United States, and was used in 1982 to force the “Gay Olympics” to change its name to the “Gay Games.”
Last month, a lawyer for the USOC told Brooks to change his email address and Facebook page, both of which still use the word “Olympics.” He refused. Now that “The Daily Show” is bringing more attention to the event, he said, he expects the USOC might go ahead and sue him.
Hundreds of people filled the grounds Friday night, paying no mind to the controversy or the filming crew on the grounds. Dozens of ATVs buzzed around Brooks’ land. Some had to be waved away from his garage, where the noise threatened to interrupt the interview.
Near the entrance to the games, Ron Snow of the Maine Veterans’ Home in Paris was selling raffle tickets for a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, which will benefit the facility. He said Brooks invited them to the event to raise funds. “Harold’s been good to us.”
Laurie Lake of Greene was celebrating her birthday with friends and family, camping out at the Redneck “Blank” for the second year in a row. She said she’s been looking forward to it. “He keeps having this thing on my birthday,” she said.
Brooks doubled the space for camping, and guaranteed there would be enough room for people hoping to camp out. “I’ll let people camp out by my bedroom window if we have to,” he said. He said tickets will be available at the gate and the games “will not sell out.”
No dogs or glass bottles are allowed. Attendees are encouraged to sign up for the events, which will be held this year in the 2,000-seat amphitheater Brooks built for the Redneck Rodeo. Tickets are $45 for the weekend or $20 per day.