|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
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
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
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
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
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