PIPESTONE — For the third year in a row, Pipestone will host the Midwest Cornhole Classic thanks to the efforts of local organizers.
The tournament will welcome cornhole players of all skill levels and ages from Aug. 16-18 in the livestock shed at the Pipestone County Fairgrounds,
Richard Fenton of Jasper decided to start the Southwest Minnesota Cornhole league after he began playing the game three years ago. His father, Randy Fenton, did a lot of the legwork by knocking doors and finding sponsors. Early on, Fenton invited his friend Mark Kruger to help organize the league.
"Mark has been a huge asset," Fenton said of Kruger. "He's got ideas galore."
Fenton and Kruger met "through bags," Fenton said. He added that building relationships is one great aspect of the cornhole league.
"You meet such great people who are so down to earth," he explained.
Since the league's inception, it has grown to include more than 1,400 members nationwide. Kruger noted that these numbers are indicative of cornhole as a growing trend. He added that recently, cornhole had higher ratings on ESPN than baseball.
The Midwest Cornhole Classic spans three days, Fenton and Kruger explained. Friday night there is a blind draw, with play beginning Saturday morning. Fenton said that in previous years, games have spanned from 9 a.m. to midnight on Saturday. Remaining games conclude on Sunday.
"We have brackets and tournaments for all skill levels and ages," Kruger added. Anyone interested is invited to show up. Some brackets are very serious and competitive, but there are also some for those who just want to compete for fun.
Since Southwest Minnesota Cornhole includes members from all over the country, some players require travel assistance in order to participate in the tournament. Sponsorships from various businesses and organizations help provide scholarships to cover travel expenses.
Because the tournament takes place at the fairgrounds, many participants rent fairground campsites for the weekend. Although the campsites don't offer plumbing or electricity, they are economical and geographically convenient.
Those who would like a more luxurious lodging option can find discounted rates at the America's Best Value Inn and at the Historic Calumet Inn in Pipestone.
In addition to their involvement with Southwest Minnesota Cornhole, Fenton and Kruger play with a traveling league Tuesday nights during the summer. Local members come from the tri-state area of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa and rotate through nine different bars as meeting places, including the Howling Dog Saloon in Luverne. The league's 20-week season includes a mid-season tournament and an end-of-season tournament.
Members also meet as often as they can during the off season to practice.