Photo courtesy of Eric Anderson.
ALTOONA, Wisc. — Saturdays are kubb tournament days during the summer in the upper Midwest! On Aug. 18, the WHYS Radio Bluegrass Festival Kubb Tournament kicked off at 11 a.m. on the shores of Lake Altoona, just outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Fifteen mostly local, kubb teams faced off at this annual mix of local bluegrass music, craft beer, food, fun, friendship, and of course, kubb. Among the teams were a handful of players from Minnesota, and one wandering (lost?) soul from Leipzig, Germany. For the second consecutive year, Björn Görlitz made the journey from his homeland to participate in the U.S. Nationals in Eau Claire earlier in the summer. This year, he stuck around to play in a handful of additional tournaments across the state.
Lakeside in Altoona, it was a comfortably warm day under the shade of the tree-dotted park, with an occasional falling acorn breaking the concentration of the players. The lake backdrop and many talented musicians all combined for a truly enjoyable late summer day.
After the “morning” round robin, best-of-three match play, eight teams were seeded into the championship bracket, with the remaining seven headed for the consolation bracket.
The championship semi-finals featured SMP Kubboom (Pat Klages, Sam Klages, Mike Rogney) against Kubbits II (Jeff Gibson, Brian Neuser, Riley Radcliffe), and Fortschritt99 (Björn Görlitz, Dave Ellringer, Evan Fitzgerald) versus Casey and the Baby Girls (Casey Anderson, Dee Dee Halvorson, Jason Halvorson).The Fortschritt99 versus SMP Kubboom championship match went a full three games. After splitting the first two games SMP Kubboom took a commanding 5-2 lead in baseline kubbs behind some strong 8 meter play by Rogney, but Görlitz’s tight, precise inkasting kept Fortschritt99 in the game. SMP Kubboom failed to capitalize on their early advantage and Fortschritt99 wrapped things up on an advantage line late in the match. Casey and the Baby Girls took third place to fill out the tournament championship podium.
The consolation semifinals consisted of Woodschmuckers (Bill Evans, Brian Evans, Loren Brumberg, Doug Joseph) against Alley Cats (Eric Anderson, Maja Anderson, Kristen Hofacker), and Tangled up in Kubb (Adam Dohm, Demian Moore, Jim Powell) versus Kubboom Jr. (Gina Klages, Josie Klages, Max Klages). Alley Cats beat Kubboom Jr. for first place, with Woodschmuckers finishing third.
The entertainment highlight of the kubb day came from the third place consolation match-up between the Woodschmuckers and St. Paul-based Tangled up in Kubb. What was supposed to have been a single-game third-place-deciding match, “accidentally” turned into a best of three marathon that attracted a raucous crowd of supporters that cheered and jeered the two teams along to their spectacularly ineptly played finale. Eric Anderson proclaimed that a new tradition had been born, whereby future Bluegrass Festival third place consolation matches would be best of three, and the winning team would receive a round of brews for the effort.
The bluegrass and kubb festival was certainly among this year’s highlights of the summer kubb circuit. Although limited in size, there was no limit to the fun to be had and the talent present, and the setting couldn’t be beat.