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DULUTH - The game of horseshoes has been around so long it dates back
to the days of the Roman Empire and in the Unites States became a way to have
fun after a long day out on the farm.
"It started on the farms I suppose and built up and
like that. In Minnesota I think they've had leagues in the 1920s and 1930s
already," said Ray Tilli, a longtime horseshoe pitcher.
In Duluth, the sport really got going in the 1960's with the
formation of the Duluth Horseshoe Club.
"I can remember when I was a kid my dad used to pitch
in a town league. All these little towns around all had horseshoe clubs and
unfortunately you don't see that anymore," said Kent Giese, a member of
the Duluth Horseshoe Club.
The club had more than 100 members in its hay day, when popular
summer activities like softball leagues weren't around.
But horseshoes in the Northland took a hit when a zamboni
exploded, caught fire and burnt down Peterson Arena, where they played for many
"We had good lighting, good clay, we didn't have to
worry about the rain and we had a lot of people pitching then and when that
burned down it kind of cut our membership," said Tilli.
Now, the club is down to 25 members and plays out at Merritt
Park in West Duluth, where the object of the game, to get ringers, remains the
Tilli said, "You have to have your shoe open to begin
with, it's got to be open to go into the stake, then you have to get the
distance and you have to be very consistent."
It's one of the few sports which has national championships
for men, women, and juniors yet can still be played in the friendly confines of
your own backyard.
"Anybody can do it and at any age. We have youngsters
from about seven or eight years old pitching now in sanction leagues and then
we have the older groups that are over 70," said Tilli.
Giese said, "I just think that you get to meet other
people, you have a fun time and there's not a lot of pressure. You're just out
here to play and have fun."
The Duluth Horseshoe Club plays twice a week, with doubles
playing on Monday nights and singles on Thursday nights.