LAKE ALTOONA, Wisc. — A beautiful Saturday in Lake Altoona was the site of the 2019 WHYS Bluegrass Festival and Kubb Tournament. Against a background of fiddle tuning, keg tapping, and popping popcorn, the kubb fun began lakeside at the bright and early hour of 11 a.m. With a few good-natured raspberries, the 14 local Wisconsin teams and on-lookers welcomed two Minnesota teams for a 16-team field of mostly veteran kubbers, including a handful composed of family-members and a number of other local favorites from the Eau Claire area.
Play began with a modified round-robin format and a somewhat unique match-play and scoring system. The 16 teams were divided into four groups (A-D) of four teams that were then split off into two brackets, each containing two of the groups. For each bracket, the four teams in each group played every team in the other group instead of the teams within their group (e.g. one bracket included groups A and B, and all teams in Group A played all teams in Group B). All matches consisted of only two games. Winning both games earned a team three points, and a 1-1 split gave each team a single point. The resulting top two finishers from each group went on to a championship bracket with the remaining eight teams headed for the consolation bracket.
Flux Capacitors (Nick Brill, Joe Dekan, Bridget Long), Drill Pickles (Andy Lancette, Brad Larson, Demian Moore), and The Kubb Puns each finished the morning with eight points, earning themselves outright number one seeds. MJG Kubboom (Gina Klages, Josie Klages, Max Klages) and Kubbadivers each finished the morning with seven points, requiring a playoff to determine the top two spots in Group D. Group B required a three-way playoff to determine the second through fourth seeds, with Kubbitz (Dan Drumm, Jim Embke, Jeff Gibson, Riley Radcliffe), Kubbin Missile Crisis, and Alley Cats finishing with six points each.
After a boozy, bluesy lunch break the players again took up the blocks and batons to resume their own not-so-rhythmic wood-on-wood blasting beat. The Championship and Consolation brackets were set.
Championship bracket matches were best-of-three, and consolation bracket matches were single elimination. After many more brews, a few brats and weiners, and further diminishment in cognition and skills, the championship final came down to Drill Pickles against SMP Kubboom (Pat Klages, Sam Klages, Mike Rogney).
Drill Pickles and SMP Kubboom had split their morning round-robin match, so the championship finale looked to be competitive. In the morning rounds, Mike Rogney in particular had been lights-out on 8 meters and Pat Klages’s blasting was usually no more than a two-baton clear for SMP Kubboom. Drill Pickles were fortunate to pull off one of the two morning games with some clutch field-clearing snipering from Brad “Dr. Double” Larson.
In the afternoon, the first game of the championship match relatively quickly, and without much drama. Sam Klages continued his spectacular drilling, but SMP Kaboom’s 8 meter game was a bit off, allowing Drill Pickles to chip away and eventually prevail. The second game began in the same manner and appeared to be headed for the same outcome, but wasted 4 and 5 meter punishment line chances, missed king shots (three!), and general buffoonery and shenanigans by the Drill Pickles interceded to prolong the ending.
Eventually, after a cleared baseline, and with two batons in-hand, Drill Pickle Andy Lancette began to disrobe, distracting Dr. Double’s king shots. Increased crowd heckling and overwhelming support for the opposing SMP Kubboom squad rattled the Pickles for a bit. After a few more tense rounds, where Kubboom whittled away their remaining baseline kubbs and the Pickles continued to flounder, Larson redeemed himself (at the relief of all involved) by toppling the king. Drill Pickles finally finished off SMP Kubboom 2-0 in a fun-filled, sun-soaked beautiful day, and the WHYS Bluegrasss Tournament again lived up to its reputation as one of the most fun and entertaining kubb events on the summer circuit.
Photo courtesy of Demian Moore.