By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER
WESTLAND, Mich. (AP) - Mud Day was even muddier than usual this year.
A steady rain drenched hundreds of kids and parents Tuesday as they ran, jumped and waded into a 75-by-150-foot mud pit during the 26th annual event at a suburban Detroit park.
Todd Mueller missed 2013's sunny Mud Day because he had to work. But the 43-year-old consultant from Ann Arbor took the day off this year to make it to the Hines Park-Nankin Mills recreation area in Westland with his wife and their two kids.
Not more than 10 minutes in, Mueller was on his back in the middle of the pit covered from head to toe in mud, which he described as "soft and squishy" before his daughter jumped up and slathered on some more.
Jillian Palshan was rewarded for covering herself in the brown stuff.
The 9-year-old from Taylor beat out dozens of other contestants for the coveted crown of "Queen of Mud." The judges were impressed by Jillian's "mud helmet," a thick covering that encircled her face and was perched on top of her head.
This was the best Mud Day ever, Jillian said.
"Because I'm mud queen!" she said, beaming.
The event, hosted by the county park system, included T-shirt giveaways, mud limbo and wheelbarrow races and a cleanup area in which firefighters hosed down participants.
Savanna Mabey, an 8-year-old from Massachusetts who was visiting family, kicked off her Mud Day by doing a belly-flop into the pit.
"It's fun, because you make yourself dirty and stuff," Savanna said.
Especially this year.
Longtime Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said he could not remember a past Mud Day with so much rain. Add in 200 tons of topsoil and 20,000 gallons of water, he said, and you get one muddy day.
Or as veteran Mud Day participant Gabrielle Barker, 31, of Redford Township called it: "Dirty fun."