Park naturalists Katrina Fausst, left, and Jen Scully sample the mud at the site of Saturday’s MudFest at Woodstock Equestrian Special Park in Montgomery County on June 19. At right, Mike “Gizz” Warthen hoses down the area. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)
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Under cloudy skies on Tuesday at a park in upper Montgomery County, Katrina Fausst and Tina Stachura talked about mud.

“You don’t want it too watery,” Fausst said. “You want to feel the mud.”

“There needs to be some squish, enough to form it in your hand,” Stachura said. “I think it’s essential to have puddles. You want the splash factor.”

“But you want the squish factor,” Fausst said.

The two are Montgomery County park naturalists and they were standing in the mud at Woodstock Equestrian Special Park in Beallsville, Md., the site of the inaugural MudFest, from noon to 4 p.m. this Saturday.

Six dump truck loads of sifted, rock-free dirt had been delivered and groomed into shape. Mike “Gizz” Warthen and Carl Sears trained hoses at the dirt as Fausst and Stachura discussed the science of squish vs. splash.

“This is us learning,” Fausst said.

MudFest — inspired by a similar event in Ithaca, N.Y. — will feature earthen slides leading into a mud pit. There will be a toddler area with a baby pool full of dirt. There will be an art section where attendees can paint with mud and make mud sculptures, and a play kitchen where mud is the only thing on the menu.

There will be a rinse station.

There will also be a food truck and a DJ. (I sure hope he’s playing Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Puddle of Mudd.)

The event is all ages.


A scene from “On the Case,” Edward Scherer’s 1968 documentary about the Poor People’s March on Washington. (C-SPAN3)

“We want people to celebrate their childhood and celebrate mud,” Fausst said.

Why mud? Well, it’s elemental. Mud is wet soil, and soil is one of the things that makes life possible on our planet. They don’t call it Earth for nothing.

Saturday’s event will go on rain or shine; admission is $15 per car. The only thing that could cancel MudFest is lightning. And on Tuesday, as thunder rolled across the landscape, the naturalists sought shelter.

The mud just got muddier.

A resurrection

Two months ago, Ann Scherer was cleaning the basement of her Kensington, Md., home when she came across a canister holding a reel of 16mm movie film.

“I said, ‘Oh, my Lord,’ ” Scherer said. “I didn’t think there were any more copies.”

The film was a 21-minute documentary about the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington. Titled “On the Case,” it was made by her husband, Edward Scherer.

“He wanted to make a film that illustrated some of the issues that made people willing to come to Washington to try and see if they could make a change in their lives,” Ann Scherer said.

Edward, who died in 1997, was a veteran TV director and producer who worked for WMAL-TV and ABC, including producing coverage of the Army-McCarthy hearings. On his own dime, he took a small crew to Mississippi in that grim summer of assassinations and unrest. They rode a bus back to Washington with participants, interviewing them and following them through Resurrection City, the plywood town that rose on the Mall.

“There’s no narration in this film,” Ann said. “It’s entirely voice driven. And by not having a narrator, you don’t have a clear editorial point of view. He wanted the point of view to come through the voices of the people themselves.”

Edward hoped “On the Case” would be the first of several educational films he could market to schools.

“He wanted to test the concept of having major events prepared in documentary film form for high school and college students, and to tell the story in the voices of the participants,” Scherer said.

Alas, the educational market was not interested.

“It was not a commercial success,” she said. “I think it was ahead of its time as a documentary style.”

The Scherers were saddened by the lack of response, but Edward soon moved on to other projects.

“He was always glad he did it,” Ann said.

She had the film digitized and put on DVD so her three children and nine grandchildren could see it. C-SPAN got wind of it and has decided to air the documentary this weekend as part of C-SPAN3’s “American History TV.” You can see “On the Case” at 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s been 50 years,” Scherer said. “Anybody who is under the age of, let’s say, 60 has no memory of this as an event.”

Scherer hopes to find an archive to accept the original 16mm film.

“It’s not going to go back into the basement,” she said.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/people/john-kelly.