CALUMET - Guts Frisbee is a unique sport with an eccentric history and strong local ties, and all of those elements will be on full display at this weekend's 55th Annual Coca-Cola International Frisbee Tournament at Agassiz Field in Calumet.
The IFT started out in 1958 in Eagle Harbor and began drawing thousands of spectators. It's moved around the Copper Country, but for the second straight year, it will take place in Calumet, which is also home to the International Frisbee Hall of Fame on the second floor of the Calumet Colosseum.
"The move to Calumet has been huge for us. Agassiz Field is easily the best playing fields we'll have all year. It's in gorgeous shape," said Dennis Walikainen, IFHOF curator. "The tournament has bounced back, and it's the best Frisbee tournament of the year because of the community support."
Tony Hella flings a Frisbee during an International Frisbee Tournament practice session with other local competitors held at the park on the corner of U.S. 41 and Red Jacket Road in Calumet — dubbed the “Action Spot” by IFT competitors — last Wednesday. The 55th IFT?begins today in Calumet. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Dozens of sponsors, led by Coca-Cola and Main Street Calumet, are working to put on the tournament, and spectators are encouraged to come out between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. today and Sunday to watch as 14 to 16 teams vie for the coveted Julius T. Nachazel trophy, and the $2,000 first-place prize that comes with it.
And this year's field is wide open without the two-time defending champion Boomtown Saints on hand to defend their title. They opted to play in a Frisbee tournament in Japan that's held on the same days this year instead.
"We're disappointed, and we've had the same dates for 55 years but it does make it wide open this year," Walikainen said. "We raised the first place to $2,000, and lots of teams are chomping at the bit to get that money. There's probably five to six teams with a real chance to win."
Blame the Dog will be one of the favorites, having finished second to Boomtown Saints the past two years and winning the 2009 tournament in Hancock. But the Appleton Assassins will have something to say about that, as they've won tournaments in Wisconsin and Illinois this year already.
Four strong local teams will also be in the running, with Luigi's Bar, the Red Carpet Baggers, Monte Carlo and Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, a team of young up-and-coming players.
"They've got some real potential. The future is looking really bright, and there's been a true youth movement," Walikainen said.
Many kids are getting into the sport thanks to demonstrations at Lake Linden, Houghton and Hancock high schools this past year, and the sport is again growing in popularity among spectators as well.
A promising weather forecast, a deep field of teams competing on eight fields, a variety of musical entertainment and concessions and cooling tents will all make this year's IFT a family-friendly event.
"A great thing to do if you're just getting acclimated to the sport is find a local team and go watch them play. Ask the people under the tents which match-ups are particularly good to watch," Walikainen said. "It's an exciting sport, and you can bring your chairs right up to the sideline and get close to the action."
Blame the Dog and Appleton Assassins are seeded No. 1 and 2, and a three-game round robin tournament will be held to determine seeding for the rest of the tournament.
The game is played by teams standing about 14 yards apart, with one team throwing as hard as it can and the other having to catch the Frisbee with just one hand. Teams play to 21 points and have to win by two. Points are not awarded for catches, but to the throwing team for drops and the receiving team for errant throws.
At noon today, play will be paused for the presentation of the Dave Bradshaw Award to Jim Boggio, Sr. (as detailed in Friday's Gazette), with a distance/speed throwing competition to follow. Music will start at 1 p.m. with more competition until 5:30 p.m. A party will be held in Agassiz Park with music by Raven Congress and food and beverages.
Play will start again at 9 a.m. Sunday, with music by Electric Park starting at 1 p.m. The IFT Finals are slated for 5 p.m. with the Nachazel Cup presentation to follow.
"The location, community support, Main St. Calumet - our sponsorship is off-the-charts good," Walikainen said. "It's a great family event and it should be a lot of fun."
For more information, see the special IFT section from Friday's Daily Mining Gazette.