Horseshoes ahoy! State Tournament looms ...
With all the Kubb-centric thinking around Eau Claire, we're apt to forget other lawn games that hold prominence in this fair city of ours. Namely, horseshoes. Taking place at Carson Park on Labor Day weekend (September 2-3), the Eau Claire Horseshoe Club will be hosting the 2012 State Horseshoe Tournament. The event will attract 162 contestants from around the state, and even more people. President of the Eau Claire Horseshoe Club, John Dolezel says "For a lot of the people who do attend, it's an annual event ... one of their vacations."
"There are a lot of people that throw horseshoes outside of our club ... people who have pitched horseshoes at picnics, on the farm, wherever, that would be interested in coming to see some of the best pitchers in the state." – Eau Claire Horseshoe Club President John Dolezel
Last hosted by Eau Claire in 2006, this will be the 90th anniversary of the Wisconsin State Tournament. The biggest yearly horseshoe tournament in the state, it is a qualifying tournament for the World Championships. A fair practice is that anybody can qualify for state if they pitch at four sanctioned events in the year prior. Tournament entrants are also placed in a group with others of similar skills, which allows all participants to be competitive within their class.
A free event, the public is welcome to attend. Says Dolezel, "There are a lot of people that throw horseshoes outside of our club ... people who have pitched horseshoes at picnics, on the farm, wherever, that would be interested in coming to see some of the best pitchers in the state." Concessions will be available, and conversation and fellowship will abound. Says 2010 World Champion (Class K) and Eau Claire native Randy Ganther, "It's a gentleman's sport ... everyone tends to have fun and make a lot of friends."
Ganther will be competing with his family, a good example of the range of age groups and skills. His father, two brothers, brother-in-law, and nephew will be pitching. Competitiveness is a given, but as a family sport, horseshoes tends to be more laid back.
And the key to a dead ringer? "Focus," shares Ganther. "You have to have absolute focus, block everything else out when looking at the stake."