Big Sky Open still a draw despite economy

You can forget the outrageous fortune and leave your slings at home, but the arrows certainly will be flying this weekend when the 29th Big Sky Open archery tournament opens at the DoubleTree Hotel.

The three-day event starts with individual clay-target competition Friday night with the main shooting events starting about 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Even after 29 years of promoting what’s become one of the West’s top archery tournaments, Big Sky Open founders Margaret and Jerry Brabec of Grand Junction haven’t lost their excitement for the event.

“It’s going to be the best one ever,” promised Margaret, who is better known in archery circles for her nickname, Tootie. “We’ve changed some of the format and we’ll have many of the top archers in the nation here.”

The Big Sky Open is a favorite among competitive archers for several reasons. First, there’s the paycheck ($1,700 to the top men’s finisher) but also the camaraderie and friendly, down-home atmosphere of the event itself, which is the only major outdoor archery tournament contested on the grounds of a major hotel.

There also is the tournament format, which entails a V-shaped array of colored, Olympic-style targets from 26 to 65 yards that test the ability of even the most talented archers. No one yet has shot a perfect score, although there have been two perfect halves shot.

Among the returnees this year is Bill Pellegrino of Colorado Springs, the 2008 men’s unlimited freestyle winner, and Dee Wilde of Pocatello, Idaho, who won last year’s senior men’s unlimited title.

Missing from this year’s tournament are Frank and Becky Pearson of Vail, Ariz., who will skip the Big Sky because of a schedule conflict. Frank hadn’t missed a Big Sky since 1976 and his wife, Becky, is the only woman yet to shoot a perfect 50 in the clay-target event.

Brabec said early registrations are running about even with last year’s in spite of a slow economy.

“There’s certainly an increased interest in target shooting and even with the economy, archery is doing great,” she said. “When the economy slows down and people can’t afford to buy a big home or big car, they find other places to spend their money.

“We have about 130 early registrations and that’s really good.”

“Archery and bowhunting have proven to be very resilient, even during tough times when many sectors of the economy lack the confidence and strong relationships we have in our industry,” said Jay McAninch, president and CEO of the Archery Trade Association, in an earlier interview.

More competitors will be added as the tournament nears and more archers finalize their plans, Brabec said.

All the events are free and parking is available on the hotel grounds.


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