It’s time for the Routt County Fair and your chance to throw some horseshoes, regardless of your skill level. There is a “play for fun” pit, where the winners get to stay and defend their spot until a challenger unseats them. There is a community team challenge that also is open to all. And, finally, there is the business team challenge — usually the most competitive of all.
The Steamboat Smokehouse/Mountain Paint team is ready to defend the business class championship trophy that they’ve snared for each of the past few years. Sitting with Tom and Fritz in the Smokehouse recently, they stopped just shy of “trash talk” as we tried to figure out why the horseshoe pitchers of Oak Creek, Yampa, Hayden and Clark so readily concede the trophy to Steamboat Springs each year. Good news: There’s still time to round up a team for your business and participate.
This year’s contest — the ninth annual, sponsored by the Community Agriculture Alliance — starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Registration begins at 11 a.m. next to the six “pits” that are located behind the livestock barn. In addition to the business competition, there is a community competition for individual pairs or for couples who want to pitch horseshoes. And there is a “play till you lose” category, where any pair can compete to see how long they can last on top of the challenge pit.
Horseshoe pitching has a long history that tracks to Roman or Greek roots. In fact, it probably should be an Olympic sport.
The “modern” version dates to the Civil War, when soldiers tossed the shoes of mules, and later to a Kansas tournament in 1909 that billed itself as the first world championship. While the rules have changed slightly throughout the intervening years, the sport remains largely unchanged.
The rules for scoring points in the match are very basic. The “pitcher” throws a horseshoe 40 feet (30 feet for women and children) and tries to encircle a stake that sticks out of the ground about 12 inches. If successful, this is a “ringer” that is worth three points. If you pitch your shoe to within a few inches of the stake, it’s worth a single point.
So, stop by the horseshoe pits Saturday when you’re at the fair. You can do everything from watching for a few minutes to bringing your business team to challenge Tom and Fritz. And if you choose the latter, you’ll probably want to bring a “ringer.”