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Horseshoe league draws a faithful following
Throwing horseshoes traditionally has been a back-yard sport played between friends and family.
That's the atmosphere they try to maintain at every SEMO Horseshoe Association tournament.
In its 20th year, the SEMO Horseshoe Association has become a weekly ritual for members like Sheila LeGrand of Dexter. She's played in SEMO tournaments for eight years and said she's gotten to know all the familiar faces that come each week.
"It's just a real good fellowship," she said.
The league, which holds its tournaments in local communities like Jackson, Leopold, Kelso, Glenallen, Oran and Scott City, is open to any thrower age 13 and older. It's open to all skill levels.
People come from all over the region to play in the tournaments. At Sunday's event at the Backyard Horseshoe Club near Glenallen, Gerrie Seys, her husband and three friends drove more than 120 miles from Marshall County, Ky., to compete.
"We go out of our way for a good game," she said.
Seys said that for her the tournaments are like a big party.
"Everyone's really supportive," she said. "They're just great people."
A big part of the weekly tournaments is the friendly competition. Each player is randomly teamed with another competitor for the tournaments, which helps to level the playing field.
LeGrand said the tournaments are fun because most of the throwers don't get too competitive.
"Everyone wants to win, but they don't feel they need to win," she said.
Danny Williams, a longtime member of the SEMO Horseshoe Association and owner of the Backyard Horseshoe Club, said that even with the relaxed atmosphere the competition can still be pretty tough, especially since the SEMO Horseshoe Association includes several former state champions.
"I'm out here about every night throwing, trying to get better," he said.
SEMO Horseshoe Association tournaments attract people of all ages, from junior competitors to guys like Irvin Vandeven, 82, of Leopold, who has been coming to SEMO Horseshoe Tournaments for 20 years.
Vandeven said that he played in his first tournament in 1981, and came away with a trophy.
"I had to keep going back to try again," he said.
For Vandeven the summer is all about horseshoes.
Vandeven said he tells his relatives, "I'll be home in the winter, but during the summer I'm going to play horseshoes."
Vandeven said that while most people like to walk to get their exercise, playing horseshoes is all the exercise he needs.
Although trophies and plaques are awarded at each tournament, for beginners like Seys horseshoes is more about having fun then bringing home the hardware.
"I just have fun and hope to get better," she said.
Seys, who wears horseshoe earrings at each tournament for luck, said that no matter how bad her week has been she can always look forward to throwing shoes on the weekend.
"You let everything else go and just pitch," she said.
Throwing horseshoes can double as a stress releaser as well, she said.
"You can pretend the stake is your worst enemy and just throw at it," she said.
335-661, extension 171