Where Man Meets Mud

Behold the swamp buggy races, South Florida's oddest racing tradition, where the engines roar, the muck flies, and the vehicles sometimes sink

Buzzed from the crash and the climactic victory and the dunking of the queen (and perhaps from the Budweiser, which vendors completely sold out), the crowd slogs to the parking area. Squishing through mud puddles, they can see the first plumes of bonfire smoke wafting up from the Standing Room Only area. The campground will remain open for another night. "We'd rather have them sleep out there than have them driving, frankly," Fortune says with a smirk. If the Roto-Rooter guy spent the weekend there, as he insisted he would, he was never spotted.

A trail of pickups winds toward well-groomed Naples. After toweling the mud out of her hair, Betsy Carroll will end her royal reign with a ride back to the golf course community where she lives. Eddie Chesser will return to his subdivision, no doubt contemplating the inaugural races in Fellsmere. Naples will proceed to celebrate the next big event on its social calendar: the Collier County Fair, second week in January.

"Do you know if this is the last race?" asks 23-year-old Katie Alvarez as her shoes sink into a puddle. "We heard that the park has been sold and that they might never race again.

"I hope that isn't the case; I mean that they race again," she adds, extracting one of her feet from the muck. "This is big. This, the swamp buggy races, is, like, Naples's heart and soul.

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