‘Survivor’-style game held in McHenry County hits snag in permit request

Authorities caught wind of the event last year and asked organizers to seek their approval

In September 2022, contestants in the McHenry County Live Reality Game Survive play tug-of-war as part of the challenge based on the CBS competition show Survivor.

A “Survivor”- themed game could potentially be coming back to a McHenry-area property next year – but it has to clear the obstacle of getting approvals first.

The game, known as “Survive,” is a live reality game and a localized version of the CBS show that features people living off the land and voting each other off the show.

The weeklong game has been held a couple times before, but county officials caught wind of the event last year. According to Nicole Neises, the organizer of the game, officials sent a letter asking her to get a permit if she wants to host “Survive” in the future, county records show.

The McHenry County Board is set to vote Tuesday on the game’s approval, including whether to allow it to go on for a week, rather than the maximum three days county rules permit.

Last year, the “Survive” game was held in early September on a property just outside McHenry city limits and live-streamed on YouTube.

County rules also require events like the “Survive” game to be held on at least 5-acre lots, so authorities also have to sign off on the game taking place on a 4.7 acre lot.

A Facebook group for the show indicated the game had been planned to take place this year Aug. 3 to 10, with applications open last fall. But Neises, who could not be reached Monday, told the county board Thursday she’s planning to cancel this year’s event and try again next year in order to have more time to work with authorities to plan it and get approvals.

Last year, McHenry Alderman Frank McClatchey was among the 19 participants in last year’s “Survive” game, camping in the woods a stone’s throw away from city limits.

Neises told the board Thursday: “I’ve always wanted to be on ‘Survivor,’ but it is a lofty goal, so this is the next best thing for me.”

In her comments to the county board, Neises said the “Survive” game “truly is life changing for the people involved.”

Three-quarters of the County Board would need to vote “yes” for the permit to win approval since McHenry County Hearing Officer Michael McNerney recommended not giving permission to extend the event to a week from three days. McNerney recommended the lot size exception.

County officials said during the hearing they weren’t aware of previous events on the property, and Neises said she didn’t know she needed a permit for it.

After Neises spoke Thursday, county board members weighed in, with a couple members mentioning the neighbors. Officials confirmed there had been complaints about the event last year.

“While it seems like it’s a good idea, there are a couple of subdivisions near this property and there’s been some [neighbors] with concern,” said County Board member Larry Smith, R-Harvard.

County Board Member John Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, said he was leaning toward approving the permit, saying he felt the seven-day timeframe was “an administrative thing” and the “Survivor” game would be busiest on the weekend days.

Neises had said in her comments that the event can’t fit into three days and needs to be “seven consecutive days.”

County Board member Brian Sager, R-Woodstock, said the time-limit rule is “well-considered, in my mind.” He also expressed worries about setup and cleanup time in addition to the weeklong event.

“When you indicated there [would] be a lot of work and a lot of conversations, you didn’t mention the neighbors, and that really bothers me because I have heard from the neighbors and I understand their concerns,” Sager said. “An extended period of time for an event such as this is detrimental to the neighborhood and their quality of life.”

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