Cornhole Festival raised funds for Project Ascension

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The object is simple: put the bean bag in the hole on the sloped, ramp-like board and score three points.

Get the bean bags to stay on the board and earn one point.

First one to 21 points wins the game in a craze that has swept the nation — Cornhole.

Why the name cornhole?

Google it and get a dozen different answers of theories. Everyone from Native Americans to German farmers can be credited with inventing the game. It gets less clear as to who actually started calling it Corn hole.

But none of that matters to the throng of folks who traveled to a scenic farm/ranch halfway between Thompson Falls and Plains for the fourth annual Cornhole Festival.

And from all indications the main objective is to get out, meet some like-minded people and most importantly have fun!

Another bonus to this weekend’s good time was that proceeds from entry fees, food and a wide range of bean bag memorabilia went to help Project Ascension, an organization established to help children increase their awareness and understanding of the environment.

So, with the Clark Fork River and towering mountains as a backdrop, competitors from throughout the region gathered to see who would emerge with bragging rights due a champion cornholer.

Among the competitors was a large contingent from a Spokane cornhole club.

“I’ve been doing this for three years,” said Spokane area resident David Sproles as dozens of competitors warmed up their throwing arms prior to the start of competition. “I joined the Spokane group because it seemed like a fun thing to do and it was an excuse to get out and travel more. And it has been a great experience meeting some really good people”.

Indeed the mutual admiration was evident among all who attended. And as one member of the Spokane contingent put it, “I just started last year and people have been so good about showing me how to do this, even the upper level players”.

Saturday’s contest features two levels of competition, one for players new to the game and one for experienced players who compete in such events regularly.

The boards are set up 27 feet apart with the front edge of each board used to determine a standardized distance for all throwers. Competitors can participate in one on one matches or doubles matches with two on each team.

Each player has four bags, some of which can get pretty fancy decoratively, then take alternating turns tossing the bags onto the boards until all eight bags have been thrown. Scores are tabulated on the basis of one point for bags that stay on the board and either three points or five points for bags that go through the hole in the board, depending on the set of rules being used.

First team or individual to 21 points wins the game.

The sport even has its own vernacular. A “woody/boarder” is a bag that ends up on the sloped board. A Cornhole is one that drops through the hole and “get that corn outta my face” is a term for when a bag is knocked out of position by an opponents throw.

And the sport has grown in popularity each year with competitions like the Thompson Falls event being held at sites across the country. Tossing the bean bag has also created a professional offshoot, the American Cornhole League, which has been telecast on ESPN.

Another beauty of the sport is the relatively low overhead involved in getting started. Bean bags can be really cheap or more expensive, such as the bags being raffled off at the tournament this past weekend.

And a wide range of experience and/or lack of is not a problem.

“We saw the sign for today’s event and turned around and came back. This is my first event like this,” said Plains resident Blane Rose. “We first went in to a store in Thompson Falls and bought some $5 bean bags as a Father’s Day gift. I’ve practiced only in my dreams”.

A total of 20 boards were set up in a green field for the Saturday gathering. With throwers occupying all the boards during the competition and dozens more curious onlookers stopping to check it out, the event was clearly a success.

“I’ve been throwing for three years,” said Spokane resident Blain Egbert. “We go to a few of these competitions every year and stay locally. The people who come to these events are really welcoming people. And the sport is cheap to get into, a couple bags and a set of boards for $50 and here we are”.

And with brisk sales of T-shirts and other souvenirs, along with the $50 per team entry fee, the Project Ascension crew gets a boost for its efforts.

“The best thing of all is that these things are for the benefit of worthy causes,” said Egbert.