The 1st Chesapeake Open Horseshoe Tournament

September 29 and 30th , 2001

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The Story
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The 1st Chesapeake Open
By Pat Snelgrove, 
Photo's by Pat and Kevin Snelgrove
The 1st Annual Chesapeake Open Horseshoe Tournament was held Saturday and Sunday, Sept 29th and 30th , sponsored by the Chesapeake Parks and Recreation Dept, and organized by the Virginia Horseshoe Pitchers Association and the Chesapeake Horseshoe Club. Using a unique format of having card holders pre register for this non-sanctioned event, and the general public sign up on the spot, the tournament was a big success. Out of the 108 possible pitcher slots, 88 were filled. That is an 81% success rate. The smiles on the faces of the pitchers, however, showed it to be a 100% success.

Kevin had spoken to the construction crew on the phone the week before, when we arrived at the courts on Thursday afternoon, both of us were pleasantly surprised. For 'temporary' courts, no shortcuts had been taken - built to spec, good quality materials were used, things were laid out well, and a lot of thought had been put into planning for the space requirements of the various activities.

We met with Kenny Stuart and staff (Chesapeake Parks & Rec) and discussed what work was still needed to get the courts in shape for Saturday. The pavillion tents, PA system, food vendor were already lined up to be delivered on Friday, so all of us agreed to meet back Friday morning and finish the tasks to get the courts ready for competition.

On Friday, sitting down to our morning coffee, flipping through the local newspaper, we were once more pleasantly surprised. Right there, on the front page of the local newspaper, was a full page article about the tournament! "Chesapeake Horseshoe Club Hosting Big Event" was accompanied by a very large picture of club member Anthony Tolbert pitching. You couldn't miss it. The planning and forethought that the Chesapeake P&R department put into this event was evident. 

Kirk Adams, President of the Club, Dave Moser, Vice President, Anthony and his son Chris had made arrangements to help out on Friday. By 8am when we arrived, Anthony had already received requests for his autograph - a local celebrity had been made overnight! and was enjoying every minute of it!

We spent Friday morning and part of the afternoon fine tuning…smoothing out the edges of the boxes where pitchers would stand, painting pegs and placing foul lines, rearranging the gate access ways. By 3:30 in the afternoon we had the best looking professional backyard horseshoe courts going. The crew from P&R packed up for the day, and the next thing you could hear was the clank! Clank! as the new courts were tried out. We all joined in, and by 5:30 or so, there were more than 15 people playing and practicing their bragging rights. .

Saturday morning!! The big day!! Kevin, as normal, woke up early. He verified that the other organizing Officials had arrived the night before - Amy & Ricky Hall, Branson Miller, Wayne & DeLisa Sturtz - all accounted for, that was a relief. 

All of us arrived at the courts early, but we still found a dozen or so pitchers already there, getting warmed up. The PA system and the Computer systems were set up. Kevin had chosen a number of photo's of the different courts in the state along with some of his better pictures to run as a screen saver. Throughout the weekend, the pitchers enjoyed watching and made comments about the photo's. Since most of them had previously only pitched in their backyards, it was a constant source of amazement that there is "organized" horseshoe pitching at all. 

By 8 in the morning, a line of pitchers ready to roll was already forming at my signup table. By 8:30, all the morning classes were filled, and I was signing up for the next couple of flights. About that time, a fire truck rolled up. Kevin had asked Kenny Stuart if there was anyway possible to get a fireman's boot. A pair of boots was hand delivered in grand style - the stage was set for the "Challenge the Champion" competition. Contributions were collected in the boots, with the proceeds earmarked for the relief effort from the bombings. For their donation, the pitchers could pick whoever they wanted, Ricky, Amy or Branson, to compete against. All three were a bit nervous with this type of format, but willingly agreed and then had a ball doing it. 

Right on time, Kenny Stuart called for the tournament to start, welcomed everyone and introduced the Officials and Organizers. The excitement could been seen in the faces of the pitchers as their names were called and they were given their round robin cards. The classes had been set up as six-man round robins, and the pitchers in general were really pleased with that format - they expected something like a double or single elimination format, and liked this idea much better. Not only that, but if they didn't win their class the first go-round, they could sign up for another class and try again!! the best of both! 

To make it less confusing for these first time pitchers, we had color-coded the courts Red, White, Blue and Tree (the original courts that the club uses all the time are located in a very nice grove of pine trees). Then the courts were numbered simply 1,2,3.   Each round robin card was color coded or marked in relation to the courts the pitcher was assigned to, and each pitcher was given a name tag "hello my name is" color coded also, with their pitcher number and name on it. (Most of these people had never met each other before!)

It was a blast! I've attended a fair number of tournaments over the years, all organized and attended by groups of pitchers that are familiar with the NHPA and the VaHPA. There might have been a couple "new" people at each, but I can tell you, this was totally different. The entire tournament was full of "new" people, asking questions about our sport, expressing interest and amazement about everything. For those of us who were the Officials, it was a great time full of teaching, explaining, and just plain enjoying. 

The "Official Rules of Horseshoe Pitching" by the NHPA were the guidelines of the day. These were posted conspicuously, and a poster board of the highlights was hung in plain sight. Some of the novelties about the tournament became obvious right away - mixed classes (Men versus Women?!), thirty foot pitchers (Why can he/she stand up so close?!), young people can sign up (hooray!! we had juniors from 8 years old to 17!!).   Another area of great interest was the booth set up by Wayne & DeLisa Sturtz. Their assortment of merchandize was just mind boggling to the novices - "I always thought a horseshoe was just a horseshoe! What's a flip shoe vs a turn shoe? They actually weigh these things?" 

At noontime, the City officials arrived for a formal kick-off. Councilman Alan Krasanoff, Councilwoman Patricia Willis, and Bobby Clifton, Director of Parks & Recreation circulated among the pitchers. Their ceremony included recognition of all the parties involved in organizing the event, and an overview of the City's plans going forward. Encouraged by the local players' enthusiasm, they explained their interest in the possibility of growing large enough to host the World Tournament in a few years. The Councilmen then pitched through an inning, and with Patricia scoring a point, they considered her the winner. 

Right around that time, Rick and Amy Hall received notice that Robby, their son, had been hurt in a fall, and was in need of immediate surgery. They left the tournament immediately, to attend to that situation. (An update to that piece of the story: The surgery needed was on Robby's knee, and it went well. He's back home recooperating.)

Branson Miller and Kenny Stuart pitched through an exhibition game. It was a close match all the way. When the score was 18-19, Branson's favor, Kenny missed the pin and Branson threw a double to win. Meanwhile, from the sidelines, the spectators had a birds eye view of another new aspect of pitching - recording the scores. Prior to the tournament, Kevin had constructed a 24" x 48" score sheet, mounted on an easel, for this very purpose. Appreciative comments were heard all around. 

Having witnessed "a very close game against one of the Champions" , the public wanted their own chance. Branson pitched non-stop from then until the end of the day. Most of the games were short, but a few of the pitchers held their own for quite a while. By the end of the day Branson was worn out. He said "A couple of the games were close. I haven't practiced since the Frye and pitching on sand was difficult. But, I had a great time doing it."

The weather prediction for Sunday looked grim. A stiffening breeze, gusty at times, with a chance of rain. Wind can be dealt with, but rain, as cool as it was already, could be devastating.. The day was indeed full of gusts and a steady breeze, but Mother Nature held back the rain. During the very last game of the day, and while photo's were being taken of the Champions, it misted. But that was it. We were indeed blessed all weekend long.

Kevin said, and I wholeheartedly agree that the members of the Chesapeake Horseshoe Club deserve a great big "Thank you" for their participation and assistance during the tournament. They were there helping in every way possible anytime something was needed. A special thanks to Chris Tolbert for his constant energy and willingness to help, and another round of appreciation goes out to the Parks & Recreation department. With Kenny Stuart coordinating, Shelly Pope and Ramey Hees made sure all the details were taken care of. Ed Jones supervised the ground crew, and Fred Edge, Dave Echternach, and Richard Burgess constructed everything with real care and attention. What a team!!

Contributions for the relief effort totaled a little over $100. The funds were handed over to the Volvo Parkway Fire Station to add into their collection efforts.

We're looking forward to next year's event, which has already been committed to from all sides - the VaHPA, the Club and the City. Having done this once, ideas for improvement are being jotted down, and next year will be even bigger and better (and very likely on sanctioned permanent courts) ! Hope to see you there!  Pat


Arriving on the scene
Courts were numbered Red, White and Blue
Kirk & Kevin
Parks & Recreation setting up their booth
Warming up Friday evening
Dave Moser warms up on the temporary courts installed for this event
Club members Anthony Tolbert & Marvin Chesson
Tom McClane warming up
Getting ready to roll!
Patrick Doyle & Gene Webb face off in the first games of the day
Dan Speakman & Bruce Thrasher
Joe Marasco & Marvin - what a close game!
Devon Schaefbauer & George Hopson
Mastin Kitchen and good friend Gene Brooks 
Frank Marasco & Randy Addison
Tony Webb & Willie Cox
Talmage Dunn & Kirk Addams
View from the side lines. The City Parks&Rec department did a wonderful job setting up this tournament! 
Challenge the Champions - Tom McClane vs. Branson Miller
Security for the event was provided by the local Sheriff's office. The Deputies seemed to enjoy the assignment as much as we enjoyed having them around.
Club member Frankie Everton enjoyed pitching on his home courts. 
John Dunn is serious about this pitch
What a follow-through on that throw Anthony!
Branson Miller, Ricky Hall and Kevin Snelgrove compare notes on the morning's activities
Gene Web is the first winner of the tournament, with a record of 5-0 to win the 9am Red flight! 
Gene Webb
Anthony Tolbert - winner of the TR flight, also with a 5-0 record
Randy Addison, also with 5-0, winner of the Blue flight
Blue flight Scoresheet
Red flight Scoresheet
"TR" flight Scoresheet
Challenge the Champions - Anthony Tolbert enjoyed pitching against Amy Hall
Challenge the Champions - club member Richard Revell and Branson Miller. 
Contributions to the relief effort were constant during the two days. Here, Amy Hall pitches again 
Kenny Stuart, (background) Ches Parks & Rec announced each & every winner. with hearty thanks & congrats.