When I was a child, we painted pumpkins instead of carving them.
My mother says that the first Halloween they carved pumpkins. Then she put them outside overnight with the candles in them. In the morning, an early frost had hit that disfigured the jack-o-lantrens into more scary faces than the bright ones we had left. My little girl self wept. My mother couldn’t stand it, so we painted the pumpkins from then on.
When I got married, my husband was horrified to find out that I didn’t remember or know how to carve a pumpkin.
Nauvoo has the most spectacular display of carved pumpkins I have seen to date. The weekend before Halloween, the streets are filled with pumpkins of every size, shape, color and carving to celebrate the holiday. There is a auction for the most beautiful carvings, so you can take a piece home.
Lots of the visitors share their own spooky costumes as they walk the streets enjoying the show. There are also photo ops to catch a wonderful memory or two.
My first experience with this tradition was last year’s Pumpkin Walk. It surpassed everything I had heard. There were the ironic sayings, pop-culture references, nerdy favorites, as well as the traditional jack-o-lanterns and Halloween themes. No two are just alike.
Some of the pumpkins look to be carved by children, while others definitely have the touch of a master. Street after street and window after window were jammed full. There was live music from an uniquely instrumented band to accompany the happy chatter of visitors.
An event for young and young at heart alike, this walk is a great way to start off your Halloween celebrations. Put it on your 2013 schedule.
The Midwest isn’t known for any sort of drastic gradient in elevation. In fact, we’re known for quite the opposite: flat grasslands and acre after endless acre of corn, wheat and soybeans. Personally, I think we get a bad rap sometimes because of the grand landscapes of the Rockies to the west and Appalachia to the east. Maybe our landscapes aren’t as “grand,” but you have to give us credit for producing enough food to feed millions each year. In other words, we keep you alive America. You’re welcome.
With all that said, we still have oases for hikers and climbers, notably in Southern Missouri and Southern Illinois. We only had to travel 3.5 hours into south into Missouri, just outside a small town called Ironton, where we were able to hike Taum Sauk Mountain. Taum Sauk is located in Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and it’s the highest point of elevation in the entire state at 1,772 feet above sea level. It isn’t a glacier capped, 12,000-foot sawtooth that you might find in Colorado or Montana, but it’s a definite rise above sea level. Try hiking it. You’ll see what I mean.
The thing I really liked about Taum Sauk is its accessibility, whether on tires, hooves or feet. We drove to a basic walk-in, first-come first-served campsite near the top of the mountain. When I called the rangers station prior to our arrival, the ranger informed me that a “campsite is usually always available, but it’s not guaranteed.” We got a nice wooded site without a problem, although we were in relatively close quarters with another group of backpackers, which I didn’t mind.
From the site, you have access to a variety of trails. We chose to take the Mina Sauk Falls trail, which is a 3-mile loop leading to a 132-foot waterfall that cascades over a series of ledges into Taum Sauk Creek. It’s defiantly a medium to strenuous hike. The trail curves and winds over rocky terrain and swift dips and inclines in elevation. I recommend good hiking shoes or boots, and I encourage you to be cautious. The risk to fall on nasty rock formations and/or sprain or even break an ankle is high if you aren’t paying careful attention to your footing.
The trail was well marked. It’s always a hikers worst nightmare to veer off trail and get lost (I also encourage you to carry and be knowledgeable with a compass and a topographical map). The trails of Taum Sauk Mountain are also part of a much larger trail — 350-400 miles — called the Ozark Trail, which is divided into 13 smaller sections, including several state parks and the popular Current River section. Taum Sauk is a 35-mile section. The trail builders use different markers to let you know whether you are on an exclusive trail in Taum Sauk State Park (a maroon blaze), the larger Ozark Trail (a green and white blaze) or a trail shared by both (both blazes in tandem).
After lunch we veered off the loop to see a final landmark, Devil’s Tollgate, which was an additional 2-mile in-and-out hike to the southwest. The trail runs between large rock formations that look naturally cleaved in half. This trail was relatively simple after it leveled out. The beginning was a steep decline; so, if you ever decide to come at the Tollgate from the east, take it slow. Declines can be bad on your knees, especially if you’re carrying a pack and moving fast. We decided to eat a snack and rehydrate here.
The temperature started to drop while we were eating. We thought we were getting a break because it had been in the high 80s, but it was actually a storm front moving into the area. We decided to hike swiftly back up the mountain (500 feet in about two miles) to our camp rather than risk being at a lower point of elevation during high amounts of rainfall. This put us between a rock and a hard place because climbing up in a thunderstorm also makes you a more conductive lightning rod. And we did see lighting. I’d guess the bolt struck the ground 100-200 feet east of us. Too close for comfort.
We decided not to camp that night due to the severity of the weather. There’s roughing it, and then there’s being ignorant.
Trying to fend off thunderstorms in tornado alley in a tent during tornado season is ignorant. You have to have common sense when you’re out in the wilderness. Fortunately, we were camping close to our vehicle so we had the option to go. We would have been in really tight spot if we were in backcountry. Taum Sauk was an awesome experience: challenging, conditioning, technical and dangerous, and it’s less than a day’s drive from here. You could easily go on a Friday afternoon after work and camp and backpack for the weekend.
Since today, Tuesday, June 21, is the longest day of the year, I thought I would give some ideas to the people of Quincy, on how to spend this day. Even if this includes getting off work at 5 p.m., there are still plenty of things to do, and not to mention for very cheap! I don’t feel that to have fun here in town you have to spend a pretty penny. Here a few things you can do tonight that are cheap, and not time consuming:
1. The Patio, (133 South 4th St.) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings has an ALL YOU CAN EAT pasta bar. You can chose your ingredients and watch the chef prepare your favorite pasta, and the evening is one the whole family can enjoy, priced at only $9.95 for all you can eat. Now that’s amazing! The Patio is open Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 4 to 10p.m.
2. Firehouse Pizza, (340 S. 36th St.) Monday through Tuesday Kids Eat Free, but for dine in only, and you can get 6 FREE breadsticks with any Large Pizza purchase. Yum!
3. The Abbey, (1736 Spring Street) today, has BBQ Honey flavored Chicken Nuggets 10 for $3.
4. Tower of Pizza and Mexican, (2635 Broadway) from 4 to 11:30 p.m. is serving HALF PRICE PIZZA.
1. Wavering Aquatic Center is having a teen pool party tonight — for ONLY $1 admission! This is open to the public and goes from 8 to 10 p.m.
Moorman Park also has a ton of things to do, and for cheap. The hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 10 p.m. Concessions are available. Below are a few activities you can take part in at Moorman Park for very little and have a lot of fun while you’re at it:
2. The Batting Cage, (Upper Moorman Park), offers baseball and slow pitch and fast pitch softball hitting machines. Token prices: 4/$2.25 and 10/$4.25.
3. Miniature Golf, (Upper Moorman Park), is an 18 hole miniature golf course, beautifully landscaped with running streams and a large rock sculpture. Prices: 12 and younger $4.25 and 13 and older $5.
4. Paddleboat rentals are located in the same area on Moorman Lake. Four seat boats are available for rent. Those 12 and younger must ride with an adult (at least 18 years old). Prices: $7.25/hour or $4.75/30 minutes.
5. The Blind Pig, (900 N 12th) Trivia Tuesday, FREE to play. Teams up to five players are allowed. It goes from 8 to 10:30 p.m.
There are many things to do TODAY, right here in Quincy, and as you can see, all of them can be done even after the work day is over and on the cheap. You can check out even more events at www.thelocalq.com on the calendar.
I spent yet another fun night in Hannibal, Mo., tonight.
Growing up in Quincy and living there for most of my life, it wasn’t until college that Hannibal seemed like a place to check out for me. Well let me tell you, I was wrong while growing up.
The past week or so, I have found myself spending more and more time in downtown Hannibal. The quaint setup of the downtown strip is classic, yet still contains just the right amount of modern conveniences to draw in the average person. The city itself is famous for its most famous resident, Samuel Clemens, or more commonly known as Mark Twain. Tonight, on the beautiful Thursday night it was, I got to see the city of Hannibal, made up of all ages, come together for “Music Under the Stars,” which a concert series that the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum puts on each Thursday through Sept. 1. It was something I enjoyed seeing. Everyone knew everyone, and seemed to genuinely enjoy everyone’s company. Something that I can’t say I’ve ever really witnessed while living in Atlanta, Ga. Events like this make you realize how special living in a small town really is.
The event has been going on for five years now and seems to be going strong. It starts at 7 p.m. each Thursday and tonight’s band was Steppin’ Up. They were a cover band that provided fun music for the crowd to sing along to. It wasn’t overly loud, and I didn’t feel like I had to cover my ears. So if you are worried about getting a headache later, don’t be. It was quite relaxing actually. The crowd was lively and friendly, waving to me as a walked past, probably wondering what I was doing walking around with my sister and camera equipment, but nonetheless, they were warm and welcoming.
Breadeaux Pizza and the Wine Stoppe provided food and drink for the evening. The crowd had their lawn chair, family, friends, drinks and even some brought their dogs with them. I truly saw a community coming together to enjoy something. The weather was beautiful and the street itself created an inclined seating arrangement almost perfectly, seeing as how the downtown area of Hannibal does lie on a hill, and the band was nestled at the bottom of it.
As for the interviews, I was looking to get just an overview shot of the band and the scene itself, and maybe a few attendees of the event, when Ryan Murray, the marketing manager for the Mark Twain Boyhood Home, came up and found me. Couldn’t have been that hard, I had a Local Q T-shirt on and a microphone in my hand. Either way, I wasn’t planning on even trying to locate him seeing as how that would have been impossible. But I’m glad I did, he was extremely nice and helpful and understood that I was a bit nervous. He also found Cindy Lovell, the executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home Museum, and she was an absolute doll. These two people are some of the nicest people I have met so far in this industry. They explained all about the future bands they will have in the coming weeks, and how each week, different local restaurants will provide food for the event, and The Wine Stoppe will be providing drinks. You can check out the entire list and dates at: http://www.marktwainmuseum.org/index.php/community-projects/music-under-the-stars.
Lovell also said she gives tours in the Boyhood Museum, that you can go to, and that I was more than welcome to come for one, cameras and all. Not only did the people of Hannibal make me feel right at home, but it seemed like a place with a lot of things to do. Something that if you were to tell my 17 or 18-year-old self, I wouldn’t have believed you. I know if I have time on a Thursday night, I would really enjoy going back down to Hannibal. Lounging in a lawn chair, with an ice cold drink, while listening to music. It doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
WATCH VIDEO OF THE EVENT BELOW:
You can find out more about my night under the stars at thelocalq.com and look for my video. Check out more information about The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum at:
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum
120 North Main Street
Hannibal, MO 63401
The winter weather is clearing, and the temperature is starting to climb, albeit gradually. That means Quincy’s only organized Ultimate Frisbee team will begin playing and practicing down at South Park in long sleeve shirts and sweat pants. Consider this your open invitation, no matter how old, young, experienced or inexperienced you are.
The Quincy team (myself included) attempts to play games every week down at South Park soccer field on Sundays at 2 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5 p.m. if we get enough people. We won’t be playing on Wednesdays until after the daylight savings time on March 13. This gives us more daylight so we can play for more than an hour before it gets too dark to see the disk. A normal game consists of seven players on each team with a few subs — this is a running intensive sport — but we’ve been known to play with as few as five on five if necessary.
If I can stress one thing about Quincy Ultimate, it’s this: our focus is not competition. As our organizer Corey Miller, often referred to as “coach,” says, “We want this to be a learning experience. We’re here to have fun.” I speak for my whole team when I tell you that we love to teach just as much as we love to play, and we are infinitely patient. Frisbee players are some of the most generous and accommodating athletes you will ever meet. We do razz each other from time to time, but that is only because we are all friends both on and off the field. If you are curious, wanting to get outside, or just plain bored, come out and throw the disk around for a couple hours a week. Plus, it’s a great cardio workout.
For more information, you can access the Quincy, IL Ultimate Frisbee League Facebook page or post a comment here on the blog with your email address. Remember, every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and Wednesday at 5 p.m. after March 13.
The snow is starting to melt a little. That makes it packable and perfect for all the things you used to do in the winter when you were in grade school: snowball fights, sledding, and snowmen. Belinda and I decided to throw on our winter gear and take advantage of the powder we get here in the Q only a few times a year by building ourselves a snowman. Well, actually, a snowwoman — with a name and a back story.
I grew up with two sisters. It was always a warm and fuzzy family tradition to throw on snow suites like miniature Michelin men and bounce around the backyard on snow days. Looking back, I wish I had the imagination I had now. Don’t get me wrong. It was fun to roll out three huge balls of snow, try to stack them up, and put the charcoal pieces, carrot and stick arms in the right places. But that’s about as far as it went. Now that I’ve grown up, I realize it’s fun to get a little more creative with it.
I have to admit that I had a little Irish whiskey in a flask that fit snuggly in my back pocket. I guess that made me a little loopier than usual, but it’s also practical. It helped keep me warm.
The picture you see in this blog is the product of our creation. She’s our snowwoman friend, Sandy Clout. She wasn’t that difficult to build. The snow rolled up just fine, and we managed to avoid picking up too much grass or mud. She stacked nicely too. But that wasn’t the fun part. The fun part was finding all the accessories from old junk in our house and telling the story of Sandy’s life.
We did use some of the traditional materials, but we also racked the house for junk and old clothes. Like I said, you have to get creative. We ended up finding a matted Rasta-Santa hat with deadlocks that I found in a dive bar in Carbondale, Ill. — nothing I would ever actually wear on my head — a necklace made of plastic mini football helmets that we won at Krieger’s last super bowl, some beer cans and a so-last-year striped bikini we had to cut to fit around Sandy’s bulbous midsection.
After we put all the right pieces in all the right places, we came up with this short bio for Sandy while pitching balls of snow at each other’s faces:
Sandy drove a big rig out of Beaver, Ark. She worked for a company called Big Bub’s Haulin’ Stuff n’ Such, shipping coal slag and fly ash to barges on the Mississippi or a landfill near Flat Gap in Kentucky. Unfortunately, she was carrying a hefty load in the summer of ’98 when her back gave out. The doc told she had to take it easy, so she moved up to Quincy to be closer to her only living relative: Belinda Boden. Even though Belinda was Filipino and Sandy was a born-and-raised white Southern American, no one asked questions. They live together on Hampshire Street. Sandy is a little rough, but they get along okay. Occasionally, Sandy drinks a little too much when watching football on Sundays and she walks outside in her bathing suit to get some fresh air at halftime. No one knows why she wears a bathing suit to watch football.
Maybe I drank a little more whiskey than I thought, but it was fun bringing Sandy to life. She wasn’t the ideal guest, but that makes her all the more real.
I thought, rather than list all the New Years resolutions I will undoubtedly fail to commit to — like going to the gym 184 times a week or writing a screenplay, which are three-year-running resolutions — I thought I would list my 10 most memorable moments of 2010, starting with my first five:
1. West Coast Road Trip – In the summer of 2010, I bought a new car and Belinda and I hopped across the Mississippi on a huge loop that encompassed 13 states, including Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. From hiking the Bitterroot Mountains to driving Highway 1 to the Strip in Las Vegas, we saw it all. We slept on couches with old friends, ate octopus and cod the day it was caught and camped among the giant redwoods just off the Pacific coast. I felt like I was in an episode of Jurassic Park. Even the clovers were the size of my hand. By the way, you ’80s nerds are about to get jealous: I got to do the truffle shuffle in front of The Goonies house in Astoria, Oregon.
2. Sasquatch Festival 2010 — No, it’s not a mad hunt for a hairy Neanderthal. It’s a three day music festival held in Quincy, WA, every year at one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen: The Gorge Amphitheatre. We lived in a tent city for three days with hundreds of kids who wanted nothing more than to drink and listen to good music. The folks that put this festival together really have their ear to the ground, booking some of the best up and coming and veteran acts. I saw great artists like Mumford and Sons, The National, The Tallest Man on Earth, Kid Cudi, Local Natives, MGMT, LCD Soundsystem, Passion Pit, Band of Horses, Minus the Bear, The Mountain Goats, Caribou, Portugal, The Man, Freelance Whales, Public Enemy, and on and on and on and on.
3. Owen with a full band – For those of you who love a good melody and don’t know who Mike Kinsella is, I urge you to check him out. He is a great songwriter, also known for his work with the band American Football. He released his fourth solo album at the end of 2009 under the moniker Owen. On his albums, you will hear a variety of instruments: drums, violin, piano, acoustic guitars, maracas, etc. Mike plays and records most of these instruments himself, but he only plays acoustic live. Belinda and I had the fortunate experience of watching Mike play his songs with a full band at The Beat Kitchen in his hometown of Chicago. It was an amazing concert and the musicianship was unreal. At one point, I was actually sitting on the stage.
4. Fourth of July Family Barbecue – My family likes fireworks, and I have a big family, so the competition to see who can find the biggest, baddest firework is intense. We are also unlucky because that firework always tends to malfunction in the most dangerous way possible. This past summer, that’s exactly what happened with a multiple-mortar firework called “One Bad Mother.” It was like ten mortars duct taped together, firing ten consecutive aerial busts. Well, that beast fell over, launching shells straight at the house and spectators in lawn chairs. It was like being in the middle of a firefight. Explosions and sparks everywhere. People screaming. At one point, I was running away from ground zero and a mortar shell went over my shoulder, exploding twenty feet in front of me. What a beautiful chaos.
5. The Sledding Accident — When someone tells you that “sledding head first on your back is like drifting through heaven,” they are lying. It’s really an accident waiting to happen. And it happened to me at the infamous South Park Hill. I was traveling at a high rate of speed,
unable to see where I was going, when I hopped the road and smashed into a tree. One ER visit and $2,000 later (thank God for insurance), I was good as new, except for the bruise-jelly swimming around in my lower back for three months.
I will continue this list in the next blog. But first, let me tell you what I’ve learned so far:
• I learned that there is a whole world of entertainment out there waiting for you. You just have to go out and explore.
• I also learned that I like to take risks — some a little less intelligent than others.
• A good friend of mine always says, “It’s all fun and games until somebody pokes your eye out, then it’s just fun you can’t see.” You live, learn, and press on.
A while ago, I wrote about my experience with geocaching, and I mentioned that one of the benefits was fine tuning my outdoorsman skills. Now that I have hunted for a month or two, I can also report another benefit that I never anticipated: an entire new experience and an amended map of Quincy’s parks and outdoors.
This past Saturday, my girlfriend and I took our dog Peter on a walk. She asked if I wanted to go to Gardner Park, which is located on the left just after North 4rth Street merges into Highway 24 East. Just look for the white and forest green park district sign.
She really wanted to show me a cool cache she found buried under some rocks while I was at work. She led me down a curvy, clay colored road into the woods, away from the playground equipment heading south. We walked over a really small one-lane bridge that went over the creek, and the road started to go back uphill. When we got to a curve, she directed me to go straight, off the road, to a small gap in the trees and underbrush that was barely noticeable. It was hikers trail.
While I was shortening Pete’s leash, she admitted that she never would have found the trail if the GPS hadn’t led her off the road and straight back toward the woods.
The cache was only a few hundred feet back, but, in the process of getting there, we encountered several forks and intersections in the trail. This really tickled my curiosity. I love to hike, and I’ve lived in Quincy for (all together) over 21 years. How had I missed this? With that many trails crossing paths, there could be several miles of them. I knew that I was less than a quarter mile from the Mississippi to the west, and I would hit either train tracks or the bottom road before that, but there was a lot of space to roam up north.
We explored as many of the trails as we could in the amount to daylight we had left (gotta love those 5:00 sunsets). The main trail followed a small rock ridge south that dropped off about 15 feet to what I think was the lowest level of elevation on the Illinois side of the Mississippi floodplain in our area. The trail then forked and we took the right branch, which curved back north, running between the ridge we were just on and a set of train tracks.
Sadly, there was some garbage along this route. The largest object we saw was a bathtub, but most litter was small plastic bottles or soggy paper. Aside from that, the route was beautiful. It ran under the bridge on Highway 24 that goes over the train tracks and into Parker Heights Park. We also crossed over Cedar Creek, which starts out near North 36th Street and channels through town until it eventually empties into the river. This was all through completely wooded areas, which was much different than the shelter-house-swing-set side of Quincy’s residential parks that I am used to.
The interesting thing was that hazards like fallen trees were marked along the trails, and many were sawed off to prevent any blockage, so the Park District (I assume) must maintain these trails. If you’re an explorer, it’s worth an afternoon. We were there for several hours and didn’t get through all the trails. I’m looking forward to going back, winter weather permitting…or not. I’m up for a fight with the wild.
Easter was always my favorite holiday, because I had to hunt for my eggs, candy and, occasionally, a couple gifts wrapped in pastel tissue paper. It was nothing like Christmas, when all you had to do is walk down the stairs half asleep in your Transformers onesie, wiping away eye gunk, knowing that everything was already displayed neatly under the tree for you. To me, there was always something more rewarding about searching for gifts in the fresh spring dew. This must be why I still like treasure hunts.
Do you remember the treasure hunts that start with a riddle alluding to some familiar place or landmark where another riddle is hidden, and that riddle leads to another riddle, and so on, until you find some kind of treasure? Those are my favorite. As a nerd might say: It requires mental prowess and keen detection skills. Of course, the older you get, the better and more elaborate the hunts. The boundaries extend from your backyard the countryside, from your city block to the city limits. The downfall is that these hunts take a lot of time and effort to plan.
But what if you had some kind of network where anybody anywhere in the world could plan a hunt that you can access? What if I told you this actually exists? It’s called geocaching. People can plan and hide “treasures” (called a cache or goecache), mark their geographical place with longitude and latitude coordinates, and others can find them using global positioning satellites (GPS) and a GPS receiver. It’s like using the epitome of space age technology and global communication to play the biggest game of hide and seek all over the world, but it’s really nothing new. People have been doing it in a more primitive form for the last 150 years in a game called letterboxing, which dates back to 1854.
So how do you get a hold of cache coordinates? My girlfriend and I created a free account at http://www.geocaching.com/. Once you have an account, you can login and search for geocache coordinates around your area (or anywhere) and check user comments to make sure caches are still active. We found tons around Quincy and even more around Hannibal, but I’m not telling where. You’ll have to logon and find out.
From what I can tell, there are two types of geocache hunts. One is a coordinate that leads directly to the location of the cache, and you have to look around and find where it’s hidden. The other will give you coordinates to something with numbers on it, like a plaque with a date for example. You use the numbers you find to plug in to a diagram and find the next coordinate, which may require you to walk in a given direction for a given distance. The second kind of hunt can be a lot more challenging because it may require you to know your north-south-east-west and how to read a compass
There are also two types of caches. Some contain only a logbook, where you write your tag (usually your login name) and the date. Others contain items. Most of the time you find a bunch of knick knacks and junk, but, occasionally, you score. I’ve found an American Flag caribiner and a free movie pass. The general rule is that for every item you take out, you have to put something else in. You may also find items called geocoins or geobugs, which have a code on them. If you are so inclined, you can enter this code at geochaching.com to see how far it’s traveled, log that you found it, and then you are supposed to deposit it in another cache.
For a pastime, it’s extremely cheap, unless you don’t have a GPS receiver. That can be a hefty investment. You don’t need any kind of special, outdoor unit though. I just use the same Garmin unit that I take to find my way around other cities when I’m on vacation, and it works just fine. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one for an afternoon. It will get you out into the world, away from the television, and hone your survival skills a little bit. Trust me, it’s easy to get addicted, even if you only find a G.I. Joe, some jacks, a harmonica, an army man, and a post card from Vietnam.
This is a continuation of my previous blog, Ultimate Frisbee Part I: The Tournament.
I remember testing the limits of my liver in college. I would buy full fifths of whiskey or rum (usually this really cheap stuff called Admiral Nelson that came in a plastic shatter/stumble-drunk-laceration proof bottle) with the full intention of polishing off the entire bottle. I also participated in this ridiculous game called a case race, in which you were zip-tide to a partner and, between you and that partner, have to finish a 30 case of beers faster than any other team. If you break the zip tie for any reason, and I mean ANY reason at all, you lose.
Ultimate Frisbee parties are exactly like that: Go hard are go home. In addition, drinks are either super cheap or included in the super cheap tournament fee. That means, more often than not, drunken shenanigans and treachery are afoot.
I think the best way to explain the relationship between the tournament fee and party is tell you about my experiences at Ultimate tournaments. They’re all different.
This is a world renowned tournament. The name comes from its location on Montrose Beach in Chicago. The tournament fee seems high at first (I paid $40), until you take into account all that it includes.
We had access to all the free spring water, bananas, bagels, Vitamin Water and Monster Energy Drinks we wanted. Lunch was free both days (Saturday and Sunday), provided by Chipotle. There was a gift bag with different coupons and free gifts (this year the major gift was a Sandblast butt pad for sitting on the sand). And, last but not least, Sandblast reserves Fat Patties (a bar) in downtown Chicago for the night on Saturday, and, with a player wristband, all Ultimate players drink free for three hours (nine to midnight). If friends came but didn’t play, they could also purchase wristbands for $10.
There are two divisions at this tournament: spirit and competitive. For spirit division players, the drinking actually starts during the day. Teams usually have a theme. We played teams in pajamas (sleep over), gladiator armor (Roman Empire), red, white and blue leotards and gym clothes (U.S. Gymnastics Team), Big Lebowski characters, and many others. Each spirit team has a celebratory spirit ceremony/game after each match. For example, the Big Lebowski team had us lay on our backs in the warm sand and made white Russians in our mouths.
The party on Saturday was insane. The bar had a stage and hired a cover band to play. The free selection of drinks was awesome: All the Goose Island 312 beer and Svedka vodka you could drink. I was pleasantly surprised. I expected cheap stuff. I was double fisting all night and never spent a dime. It was really crowded, but that just made the dance party that started around 11 p.m. all the more ridiculous. Since everyone was there for the same event, it was easy to strike up a conversation (if you could hear each other). I met Ultimate players from all over the U.S. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
Summer Solstice—Tulsa, OK:
Summer solstice is a national tournament held at an abandoned soccer complex on the outskirts of Tulsa. It’s harder than heck to find, but once you do, you don’t really have to leave. The complex is big enough for about 20 full game fields and camping for each team.
The fee was only $20 at this tournament, which included the unlimited water, bananas, bagels, a brisket and spaghetti dinner for all players (that’s right! BRISKET!) on Saturday night, live jam/country/bluegrass bands all weekend, and, of course, all the free kegs of IPA, stout and porter style beer from a local microbrewery you can drink at any time of the day.
The party actually starts before the tournament. When you arrive on Friday, usually late (we got in at 1 a.m.), people are already stumbling around drunk. No one has to drive anywhere, so they lavishly partake. I was up until 4 a.m., but people stay up all night drinking on Friday because the tournament starts at 7:30 a.m. the next morning anyway. I’m telling you, these kids were troopers.
Saturday is the main event. This is the night everyone showers up after game play, eats the free dinner, and the tournament director busts out fireworks and a Slip n’ Slide. Of course, Frisbee has to be incorporated in some way. Do you remember what “laying out” means from my last blog? Someone off to the side throws a disc in front of the slip n’ slide, and a player dives down the slide to catch it. This goes on for hours and can get wild. I was told that in years prior, it eventually became clothing optional. Once the sun goes down, there’s a huge bon fire. I ended up playing Flip Cup (also known as Boat Races) with a team from Austin, Texas, for a good majority of the night before passing out in my car. On the walk back, I definitely saw a guy passed out on top of a forest green Toyota Corolla. It probably wasn’t even his.
Quincy Hat—Quincy, Il.
Quincy’s tournament is much smaller than the other national ones described above. The benefit is a cheaper fee (only $10), free ice cold water, bananas, a tournament t-shirt and free keg beer and sometimes jungle juice at the party the night following game play. Quincy hat is also a one day tournament, so you don’t have dread running around in the heat the next day with a hangover.
The party is usually held at a gracious player’s house, which will be unavoidably ransacked from drinking games like Circle of Death, Beer Die or Beer Pong. Most of the people that come are either from Quincy or close universities (SIU, WIU, NIU, etc). The party will usually continue to a late bar like The Phoenix because the night doesn’t end until the sun comes up.
So that’s my experience. Keep in mind that tournament directors almost always lose money and time putting these tournaments together, but it’s all done for the game and the players. National tournaments tend to have about 45 to 50 teams with anywhere from 15 to 22 players on a team. You do the math. It’s a tough job keeping all those kids liquored up, fed, entertained and happy, but they consistently manage to do a great job.