ST. GEORGE – Competitors from five different countries are in southern Utah this week pitching for the title of World Champion Horseshoe Pitcher.
The popular backyard game is taken seriously in the annual competition; more than 1,000 Athletes from 46 states, Canada, Norway, South Africa and Namibia will take to the pitch in this unique competition.
“I’ve been coming to world horseshoe tournaments since 1990,” said Illinois competitor Bill Marvin. “There’s always a winner and a loser in a game. However, it’s friendly competition. There’s a handshake at the beginning of each game, and there’s a handshake at the end.”
Marvin said it’s that family atmosphere that keeps him coming back. The two-week event features eight different divisions. Winners will be named in Open Men, Open Women, Senior Men, Senior Women, Elder (short-distance) Men, Junior Boys, Junior Girls and Junior Cadets (12 years old and under) divisions.
Cities have to bid to bring the horseshoe pitchers to town. Kevin Lewis, St. George Tourism Office sports marketing director, said it was a perfect fit for a summer activity in the red rocks.
“This is a little more serious than the backyard games that we’ve all played, which are fun,” Lewis said. “But in essence, that’s kind of what this is all about. You notice that with the people, it’s about the camaraderie, and the association that they have with them.”
Points are scored when a horseshoe wraps around (or “rings”) the post. It’s all regulation: the courts, the shoes, and the clay. Marvin said that’s one of the biggest differences. Backyard horseshoes is typically played in sand, but the clay gives the sport a more precise edge. But he said there’s no secret, just throwing the shoe.
“Whatever it takes to make a ringer,” Marvin said. “That’s the way you throw it. Nobody’s going to criticize you for a unique delivery style."
The world championship tournament runs through August 3 at the Dixie Convention Center. It’s free and open to the public. For more information on the National Horseshoe Pitching Association, click here.