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Hole lot of fun

Popular in the Midwest for decades, cornhole is finally catching on here on the East Coast

Popular in the Midwest for decades, cornhole is finally catching on here on the East Coast

November 28, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

On Tuesday nights at Cancun Cantina West, off of Dual Highway, after the line dancers have left the floor, it's time for cornhole.

In just a few minutes, the floor is lined with the game's boards and a small crowd of people throwing bags back and forth. The object is simple: Get the bag into the hole.

The game's name can elicit snickers. But fans say cornhole is a legitimate game -- so legitimate, in fact, that there's an official American Cornhole Association, which oversees the rules and regulations of the game.

Although the origin of the game is debated -- some say it began a few decades ago in the American Midwest, while others say it started centuries ago in Bavaria or Germany -- its appearance on the East Coast has been fairly recent.

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Scottie Tabler, 37, and Brian Waugh, 33, both of Greencastle, Pa., are owners and operators of Franklin Bags Inc., which specializes in running the cornhole league at Cancun Cantina.

And it seems that Tabler and Waugh have found a niche; cornhole is keeping them busy as they host games at five venues six nights a week in Washington and Frederick counties and in Martinsburg, W.Va. They estimate 40 to 60 people come to Cancun Cantina on Tuesday nights to play.

What is cornhole?

"Cornhole is an indoor or outdoor sport, just like horseshoes," Waugh explains. "You throw a 1-pound beanbag filled with corn at a target."

The angled wooden boards are 4 feet by 2 feet with a 6-inch hole. For outdoor play, boards are set 33 feet apart. But for inside play, Tabler and Waugh set the boards at 26 feet apart, a distance they are trying to make the official indoor regulation. Tabler and Waugh are also trying to start the official National Indoor Cornhole League.

Two teams of two people take turns trying to throw the bag in the hole. Each contestant pitches four bags. Games are broken down into innings, with a top and bottom round of play.

Teams earn points depending on where the beanbags land.

"You score just like horseshoes. One point on the board. Three points in the hole," Waugh says.

The first team to score 21 points wins the game, though if the score is 11 points to zero, it's called a skunk game and the scoring team wins. Teams play the best two out of three games.

Blake Kaiser, Cantina's manager, says he was familiar with cornhole, having played it when he lived in the Midwest.

As a business manager, Kaiser doesn't only notice an increase of foot traffic during cornhole, he's also seen an increase in business per person.

"What's so great is that it's guys and girls who come out," Kaiser says.

Why cornhole?

Waugh says cornhole isn't your typical bar game.

"If you go into a bar now, or a bar we're not in, and you want to play something you have to be a) good at pool, or b) good at darts. That's about the only bar games there are," he says. "This is the only game you can learn really quick and not be dangerous with."

Tabler says cornhole is actually physically demanding.

"It doesn't look like much just to sit and watch it. But once you get involved in it, you're bending over, you're throwing the bags, you're walking. It's actually quite a good workout," he says.

And better, yet, almost anyone can play -- women and men are at the same skill level, Tabler says.

"There really isn't a whole lot of skill level," Waugh says. "If you can throw a 1-pound bag for 22 feet you can be a cornhole champion in a couple of hours."

Game night is fun night

Scott Elwood, 38, of Frederick, Md., is admittedly hooked on playing cornhole.

"I just can't get enough of it," he says. "It's the latest craze and it's the best thing to do. It passes the time and it's a great time."

Mike Ernde, 41, of Hagerstown, and buddy Rick Grove, 49, of Clear Spring, make Tuesday nights a night out with their wives, Christin Ernde, 28, and Lacey Grove, 47.

The guys say they've been playing for only a couple months and they enjoy the game.

"We stopped by the bar one time and checked it out," Mike Ernde says. "It was pretty fun."

Rick Grove says he just likes the game.

"Actually, I enjoy throwing horseshoes and it's kind of similar to that," he says.

Competition is something the men enjoy about the game.

"It's a skill challenge. Anybody can get good at it with enough practice," Elwood says.

And for the guys, it is about the competition.

"We like to win," Mike Ernde says with a laugh.

Rick Grove agrees. "We're competitors, so that's a big part of the game," he says.

Christin Ernde and Lacey Grove say they enjoy playing, too.

"It's cheap entertainment. It's fun, getting together with friends," Lacey says.

Christin agrees. "Having a few drinks, a couple laughs. It doesn't matter if you're good or bad, you just give it your best try," she says.

It also allows them some couple time.

"It's something fun to do with our husbands and have a great time doing it," Lacey Grove says.

And the best part? Meeting new people.

"You meet a lot of friends, a lot of good people," Rick Grove says.

Elwood agrees.

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