The HappyFest family obstacle course race is coming to the...

The HappyFest family obstacle course race is coming to the Long Island Sports Park in Calverton on Oct. 15, 2016. Pictured is a tire hop challenge from the first HappyFest in New Jersey in May. Credit: Dan Griswold

Adam Stengel calls the HappyFest the “anti-Tough Mudder.” While that obstacle course bills itself as the “toughest event on the planet,” with participants slogging through mud and other grueling challenges for miles, HappyFest is just the opposite.

It’s a gentler obstacle course with challenges crafted from foam bubbles and pool noodles, a course so welcoming it’s designed for people in wheelchairs or using crutches to complete. “We’re the family version,” says Stengel, the HappyFest founder. “Your 65-year-old grandpa and your 5-year-old child can do it together.”

HappyFest comes to the Long Island Sports Park in Calverton Saturday, Oct. 15. It’s a new event — this will be just the second time it’s been done. “Our first crack at it was in New Jersey in May,” says Stengel, when 400 people joined in. The day also includes musical entertainment and activities such as family Zumba.


Dean Del Prete, co-founder of Cousins Paintball and the event coordinator at Long Island Sports Park, led the team that designed and built the course for the inaugural New Jersey event. Del Prete’s involvement made it natural that Long Island would be the second stop as HappyFest expands, Stengel says. His goal is to run five of the events in 2017.

Stengel, 49, a lawyer and dad of four from Manhattan, has experience running public events. He and his wife, Melissa, founded and run an annual walk in Manhattan to benefit charities such as the National Hemophilia Foundation that draws thousands of people. “They came to me with the concept,” Del Prete says. “But they didn’t know how to fabricate obstacles.”

Families can do the course side by side at their own pace, Stengel says. It’s not a competition. “The fastest people took half an hour. Most people took 45 minutes,” he says. People with physical challenges took 1 to 1 1⁄2, he says.

Here’s a sampling of five challenges participants will face:


This obstacle offers three alternatives — the first two include a traditional shimmy-up rope climb and a version with knots to help climbers along. The third choice, for people who can’t or don’t want to climb, is a challenge in which participants pull a weighted bag up using their arm strength. “Everybody has an option,” Stengel says.


Participants climb up a beam, and when they reach the midpoint, it tilts and they climb down the other side. They have two choices: a skinny beam about the width of a balance beam, or a beam that’s wide enough to tackle in a wheelchair, Stengel says.


For people who can’t jump from one tire to the next, there’s a choice of a slalom-like course between two rows of tires wide enough for a wheelchair to navigate in a zigzag fashion. “The kids were just loving laughing at their parents,” Stengel says. “When do they see their parents do that stuff?”


This obstacle is a traditional get-on-your-knees-and-crawl challenge. But right next to it is another choice — hundreds of pool noodles hang, and participants can pass through as if they’re a car in a car wash. “It’s colorful and it’s fun,” Stengel says.


“Instead of just crossing the finish line, you run through this massive bubble wall,” Stengel says. “Everyone gets a T-shirt at the beginning and a medal when they finish the course.”


WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Long Island Sports Park, 149 Edwards Ave., Calverton. Three waves are scheduled at 10, 10:30 and 11 a.m. Rain or shine.

INFO 888-593-0087,

COST $49 ($35 in advance), $39 ages 3-13 ($29 in advance); $29 a person for family/group of four or more (must be purchased in advance)