‘Survivor’-themed game permit rejected by McHenry County Board – but then given potential 2nd chance

County Board set to revisit issue in October

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 planned for a McHenry-area property got voted off the island by the McHenry County Board.

But the game still could win an immunity challenge, with board members deciding before the end of the Tuesday meeting that they are willing to reconsider. The game had gone on for a couple of years without authorization, but authorities last year caught wind after neighbors complained.

Nicole Neises, who’s seeking permission to operate the game, said she thought the complaints were triggered in part by a helicopter that was brought in for the finale last year. She said the helicopter will not make a comeback.

Before the first vote on the game, County Board member Larry Smith, R-Harvard, weighed in and said he’d be voting against it. Smith brought up the neighbors’ concerns during a previous meeting discussion.

The game needed 14 of the 18 board members’ approval to pass. Eight members voted for it in the first vote.

But after the vote, there was public comment, including from Neises. She told the board that she still wants to host the game, and it’s “not noisy and loud.”

Neises told the Northwest Herald on Tuesday that contestants pay $500 to play, but she doesn’t make any money off it. The game doesn’t have any spectators, and people who want to watch are directed to the YouTube stream.

Neises told the board last week that she initially had hoped to host the game again this year, but she decided to postpone the game until next year to provide more time to work with authorities.

Several other family members and friends spoke in support of approving the game. Laine Berent, who identified herself as Neises’ cousin, told the board that she’s been involved with the so-called “Survive” game since the idea for it was formed. Berent read letters aloud in support of the game.

“She’s the biggest fan of ‘Survivor’ that I know, and I just couldn’t say no to helping her,” Berent said of Neises.

Alisha Camera, who said she is Neises’ best friend, said she originally was “skeptical” about the game but noted her friend’s enthusiasm for it.

“Life is not worth living without passion and a community to share it with,” Camera said. “You may think this game is silly, unimportant and a nuisance to the neighborhood, but I can promise you it is none of those things.”

Camera urged the board to consider a “yes” vote in the future.

Once the proponents had spoken, board member John Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, asked for the board to take a second look at the request even though he voted against it.

“I was led to believe that this was a public affair,” Reinert said.

Board member Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, said her main concern was the seven-day length of the event. She later said she voted no the first time but seemed amenable to changing her mind.

“I believe in hope,” Althoff said.

Some of the board was skeptical about what would change over the next several months.

“You need 14 votes,” said board member Michael Skala, R-Huntley. “I think it’s cruel and unusual punishment” to put someone through “figuring everything out” to come back to a board that’ll vote no.

Ultimately, the board decided to take up the issue again in October.

“This was a win for us,” Neises said.

Neises said Wednesday that she was hoping to get more information to the board before October, possibly including clips from the YouTube streams and schedules of the event. She said she also plans to lobby neighbors who aren’t in support of the event.

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