Bob Crowley made “Survivor” look easy.
When the Mainer won the $1 million prize for outlasting opponents on the CBS reality show in 2008, he was the show’s oldest winner, at 57, and maybe it’s slowest. While younger contestants scrambled around hectically to run obstacle courses and solve puzzles, Crowley used a quintessential Maine approach: slow and steady wins the race.
So when Crowley says the “Survivor”-style course he’s building on his wooded Durham property might be tougher than the ones CBS builds on remote islands, you better believe him.
The public will get to see the course, as well as four other former stars of “Survivor,” when Crowley holds the 2nd Annual Durham Warriors Survival Challenge at his Maine Forest Yurts Campground in Durham Friday through Sunday.
More than 20 contestants will compete in 17 challenges over three days. The competitors are mostly “Survivor” fans from around the country who wanted a chance to compete in something designed by Crowley. He’s had help in designing the challenges from a couple of “super fans” of the CBS show.
“When we did this last year, I think we had a pretty tough course, some people told us it was the toughest they’ve seen,” said Crowley, 63, a retired high school physics teacher. “But I don’t want to say exactly what the challenges will be this year. I want there to be an element of surprise.”
The event is a fund raiser for Crowley’s Durham Warriors Project, an organization he and his family have set up to make it possible for veterans, military personnel, school groups, and youth groups stay at Maine Forest Yurts for free. The public is welcome to come into the woods and watch the challenge. Admission is in the form of donations to the Durham Warriors Project, Crowley said.
There won’t be any grandstands, so people who come to watch have to deal with a “non-improved” landscape and should wear sensible foot wear, Crowley said. Besides challenges and obstacles, there will also be tribal councils, where competitors will be voted out, just like on TV.
The CBS “Survivor” stars will be the focus of a “meet and greet” reception at 5 p.m. Friday at Crowley’s house, on the same road as the campground. The former “Survivors” Crowley says will be there include Richard Hatch, the show’s first winner, as well as Sandra Diaz-Twine, Terry Deitz, and James Tarantino.
The “Survivor” stars won’t be competing, but will be at the event, talking to fans, throughout the weekend.
Crowley began acquiring the land for his Maine Forest Yurts campground long before he won “Survivor.” He’s long been an outdoorsman and began acquiring land in Durham some 20 years ago, while living in South Portland. He completed the purchases after winning “Survivor,” and just a short walk from the campground, with his wife Peggy.
The campground features two yurts – rounded structures that are sort of a combination of tent and hut – which sleep six people each. They’re filled just about every weekend, meaning Crowley has hundreds of guests each year.
Some are paying guests, and some stay for free because of money raised through the Durham Warriors Project. Crowley said he started it with an idea to do something to thank veterans, military personnel, and their families. But he’s expanded the idea so that he can invite school and youth groups to have a wilderness camping experience as well.
“We wanted to give people a real Maine experience,” said Crowley.
And this week Crowley will give people a peak into how a real Mainer throws his own version of “Survivor.”
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. (reception) Friday; ; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Maine Forest Yurts, 430 Auburn Pownal Road, Durham; The reception featuring CBS “Survivor” stars at 5 p.m. Friday will be at 491 Auburn Pownal Road, Durham.
HOW MUCH: Donations accepted, to benefit the Durham Warriors Project.