Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Pickleball Festival

3rd Shot's a Charm
The first ever pickleball festival took place in Merriam, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City) last weekend. On Facebook there is a group known as Pickleball Forum, with members from all over the world. The guy who set up the group had stated that when the forum reached 10,000 members, he was going to hold an event so that people could meet face to face. He lived up to his claim, creating the 3rd Shot's a Charm Pickleball Festival. I talked it up with some of my friends who play at the Salvation Army, and four of us signed up to attend the three day event. In the end, 140 attendees from 22 states (including Hawaii), Canada, England and even Serbia descended on Merriam.

The $135 registration fee included three days of pickleball from 8 in the morning until 9 at night, two nights of local food and entertainment, and a tour of Kansas City aboard a double decker bus. Franklin Sports was the sole sponsor of the event, and each attendee received a pickleball bag, three balls, a new paddle, a small towel, a pickleball keychain, and a festival t-shirt. Incredible!
Our group drove over on Thursday, stopping for lunch at Maggie's Bar & Grill in Boonville prior to our scheduled tour of nearby Warm Springs Ranch. The ranch is a 300-acre facility that is the birthplace of every Budweiser clydesdale seen on television, in parades, at Grant's Farm and the Anheuser-Busch breweries. Walking tours are offered twice a day from March through October. Currently it costs $14 for adults to take the ninety-minute tour, which can be scheduled and paid for online at the Warm Springs Ranch website.

The grounds, as you might imagine, are beautiful and immaculate. Our tour guides were knowledgeable as well as funny. Oh, and like most if not all of their other tours, you get two free beers at the end of the tour. While the best time to see a newborn is in the spring or early summer, we were lucky enough to be able to meet five day old Rave and his mother Ria. Rave will hold the distinction of being the last baby born in 2017. So cute!
Warm Springs Ranch
After we checked into our rooms in Merriam on Thursday, we grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant before going into the World Gym to check out the facility. It was actually easy walking distance from our hotel, which was great as we only had one car for four of us. Twelve indoor tennis courts had been converted for pickleball, I suspect before this festival was even a thought. The facility was large enough to accommodate this group, and had an outdoor area where the food/music could be held. While it was a tad stuffy in the building due to the fact that it is a dome and the days were pretty warm, overall it was a good, central location to hold the event.
World Gym
On Friday we took a midday break from pickleball to visit the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. Designated by Congress in 2004 as the official U.S. WWI museum, the 80,000 square-foot center is dedicated to remembering and understanding the Great War and its impact on the entire globe. It holds the most diverse collection of WWI objects and documents in the world, and thus requires a good amount of time to due it justice. It is well worth a visit.
National WWI Museum and Memorial
It was back to pickleball after visiting the museum, followed by the included meal of Kansas City barbecue accompanied by a jazz band. None of us were up for more pickleball after that, so we had a rousing game of Five Crowns back at the hotel.

Saturday morning I played a few games of pickleball after breakfast while the rest of my group rested up for the 11:00 bus tour. I met up with them after a quick shower, and we headed to the top of the double decker bus. Thankfully we did not need to take the interstate to get downtown, so other than ducking for a few low lying branches and the excitement of our bus slightly hitting another bus along the route (whoops!), it was a fun trip.
double decker bus tour of Kansas City
We grabbed lunch when we got back, and then it was off for more pickleball. The dinner that evening included grilled burgers and hot dogs with all the sides while a band played tunes from the 60s, 70s and 80s. They were great, and had the crowd out on the dance floor. We ended our evening with more Five Crowns.

Sunday morning we were all too pooped to play pickleball, and we had the drive home ahead of us. We did stop for a look at a relatively new facility just north of Kansas City with the unusual name of Chicken N Pickle. Looking to capitalize on the fastest growing sport in America, the site contains four indoor and four outdoor pickleball courts, along with a shop, restaurant, bar and numerous outdoor games such as ping pong, washers, and a large battleship game. The music was blaring, and families were having a great time with their kids. All the games are free except for pickleball, and I can see what the draw might be. It's an interesting concept, and it will be fun to see if a franchise comes out of it.
Chicken N Pickle
me with the Big Dill
What an amazing weekend we had. Everyone was friendly and kind at the festival, and there to have fun - not be overly competitive. It was great to get away with the gals, and see some sights as well. Hopefully this will become an annual event.

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