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It's a Toss-Up

Ditch the bags and try your hand at these games.

Despite a collective shortage of backyard space, Chicago is a city with a passion for lawn games. If it involves the tossing of random projectiles, count us in. But those games go far beyond the fratastic beanbag phenomenon, cornhole—a name that gives us the heebie-jeebies. Here are some summer festivals with grassy activities of their own. Though if you’ve been practicing all spring with your Illini–emblazoned bags set, check out the June 21–22 cornhole tournament at Pizzafest.

VEGETABLE JUSTICE (A.K.A. TOMATO TOSSING)

Lawn
The Bristol Renaissance Faire, weekends July 5–September 1.

Rules
A few bucks will buy you the right to hurl rotting tomatoes at a stranger sticking his head through a hole in a wooden board and yelling medieval insults at you and the rest of the crowd. Those guys are paid to get your goat and then get their comeuppance. Historically accurate? We’re wary.

Players
Contestants put down the turkey legs and grog to take part in this 10-plus-year-old event. Expect to see some visibly frustrated wannabe baseball pitchers (read: high-school thespians camping out at the Ren Faire for the summer) and damsels in distress (suburbanite soccer moms on hiatus—their dirty little secret).

Why it beats cornhole
Aside from some of the same basic cornhole principles—wooden planks, a hole, throwing things—there’s a lot more to consider on the mental level here. Remember to keep your cool when the name-calling begins. After all, when was the last time your cornhole opponent told you that they fart in your general direction?

CABER TOSS

Lawn
Scottish Festival and Highland Games’ amateur Caber Toss, June 20, 7–7:45pm; U.S. Championships, June 21, 1:30–2:30pm.

Rules
Really, really strong men and women pick up a 20-foot, 130-pound telephone pole, stand it upright and fling it end-over-end. Whoever gets the big log to land in the 12 o’clock position wins—and is applauded by more than 10,000 crazed spectators.

Players
Unless you’re wearing a kilt and lifting a telephone pole in the backyard as you’re reading this, you likely won’t be competing in the 2008 events. Registration for the Friday amateur contest is closed, and the Saturday games are reserved for athletes competing in the Heavy Athletics U.S. Championship—a pretty big deal in certain circles. That said, you’ll have plenty of fun watching the games while sitting in a lawn chair, drinking whiskey with the rest of the Braveheart faithful.

Why it beats cornhole
It’s tough to compare throwing a beanbag to throwing a telephone pole. These Scottish games have 1,000-year-old roots and are played by people who go by the name of Angus. Enough said.

HORSESHOES

Lawn
The 2008 Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset Festival, August 30, 12:30pm.

Rules
In the granddaddy of all lawn games, iron horseshoes are thrown at rods of steel staked into the ground. This particular tournament includes 20–24 participants split into two-person teams; two teams at a time play on one of six horseshoe pits. Get to Sunset Park and register at noon, and $10 will secure you a spot on the bracket.

Players
Here’s the best part: Competitors are paired with their shoeing partners at random. Chances are good that your teammate will be a middle-aged man with a can of Old Style in one hand and a horseshoe in the other. And he may or may not tolerate your constant attempts to drop the phrase “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

Why it beats cornhole
Supposedly, England’s Duke of Wellington noted the outcome of the Revolutionary War by saying, “The war was won by pitchers of horse hardware.” On the other hand, comedian Stephen Colbert once referred to a cornhole tournament as “a cross between horseshoes and sodomy.” Guess which of these games has the richer history.

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