Horsing around: Horseshoe tournament has vulgar name, easy-going vibe
For the past decade, Collbran resident Dave Brant has made the trip to Lincoln Park for an annual horseshoe tournament.
It’s a laid-back tournament, starting with the name — use your imagination, now… the “Pitch ‘n’ ...”
The 25th annual tournament was Sunday at the Lincoln Park pits, and it’s gained a reputation for being one of the most welcoming tournaments in the region.
“At other places there are other people yelling at you on the side,” Brant said.
At this tournament? Not so much.
With 58 two-pitcher teams (44 men’s, 14 women’s), the tournament retains its easy-going vibe, largely thanks to the organizers.
“We don’t have any pros come in here,” said Tom Walterscheid, who helps organize the tournament.
Instead, participants are encouraged to enjoy food, beverages and the opportunity to see old friends and meet new people.
“We just give zany nicknames. On the bracket we have a couple of people we put ‘losers’ next to their name before they even start,” Walterscheid said.
The first tournament, which took place in 1986, was organized by the late Clark Miller. Talk about laid-back: The field consisted of Miller and some buddies from the U.S. Post Service branch in Grand Junction.
“There were 16 of us from the post office who came out here and played shoes one day,” Walterscheid said.
“We brought out a little beer. We all played and we pitched and (complained) and somebody said, ‘That’s a good name, let’s start a tournament.’ “
In its earliest years, the tournament was simply for employees at the post offices. There was no women’s bracket and, in a manner similar to the Stanley Cup, there was one championship trophy that was passed around for the first 12 years.
“You put it at your (work) station,” Walterscheid said. “You got a whole year to brag ... you could sit there and hear everyone (complain) about it for a year until it got to move again.”
Organizers soon realized the winners had nothing to hold on to and eventually switched over to a trophy that has a figurine throwing an object. The base of the trophy is a beer can.
The tournament eventually opened to family and friends of the original participants. Now the tournament is open to any willing players and has picked up players from different cities in the region, along with people from as far as Moab, Utah and Texas.
Despite all the participants, it is still run informally, with opponents given each other’s names, From there, it’s their job to find each other and start pitching.
“You wander over, look at the board and see who you play next. If you don’t know them, you wander around hollering out their name,” Walterscheid said. “You meet and you’ve made a new friend.”
The tournament is in memory of Miller, who died the day before the 2002 tournament. The tournament starts with a moment of silence, and many players wear shirts bearing Miller’s name.
His daughter, Julie Miller, now helps organize the event.
“We know he’s with us in spirit,” Waltersheid said. “We tell anybody that if you try to cheat out here, you got somebody else already watching down on you.”