For Jason Sparks of Portland, it doesn’t have to be Halloween to break out a costume.

It just has to be the Professional Bowlers Association’s annual Elias Cup at Bayside Bowl.

“This was a Halloween costume from like four years ago, but I spent so much time on it,” Sparks said of his black jacket and his hat adorned with the letter “M.” Except for his sunglasses, his entire outfit – which was inspired by the wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage – was made out of duct tape. “So I wear it every time I get to. Why not.”

Sparks was just one of the many spectators who dressed up or brought a prop to Saturday’s competition. In its fourth year at Bayside, the tournament features the world’s top bowlers while attracting some 450 fans, who brought the energy the pros have come to expect from the Portland venue.

The Dallas Strikers, Philadelphia Hitmen, Motown Muscle and Silver Lake Atom Splitters won and will play in Sunday’s semifinals before those winners compete for the championship.

“Portland is so different from anywhere else in the entire country,” said Jason Belmonte, a bowler on the LA X team who hails from Australia. “We players love coming up here. We feed off that energy.”

When it was Belmonte’s turn to bowl, the crowd chanted, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” Other nicknames assigned to the bowlers by the Portland community appeared on signs, such as on Kip Reynolds’ – which read “SQUIRREL POWER” in support of EJ Tackett of Motown Muscle, who goes by “Squirrel” within the walls of Bayside. The 8-year-old became a Tackett fan after his dad, Tom Reynolds, wore a squirrel costume to a previous PBA Elias Cup tournament.

“It’s in the basement,” Tom Reynolds said of the costume. “I think that’s only something you can wear once.”

While there wasn’t a human-sized squirrel in the audience this year, there was a lumberjack. Clad in a green plaid vest with an ax, Luke Behrends is the Portland Lumberjacks’ mascot. He gestured toward his beard when asked how he fell into that role.

“Sort of made sense if you look at it all,” Behrends said.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t even know that this energy and excitement is happening within these walls right now. It’s a hidden gem here in Portland.”

Dancing beside the lanes early in the afternoon were five women – four of which wore cumbersome cutouts of bowling pins on their heads while the other, Erika Puschock, dressed as Mod from the dream sequence scene in “The Big Lebowski.”

“It took a lot of foam core, staples and glue guns, and also a lot of trial and error,” said Morgan DiPietro, who designed the headgear. “There’s no other place where we’d feel comfortable dressing up ridiculously like this.”

However, the headgear itself – which spanned a few feet wide – wasn’t so comfortable.

“It’s a nightmare,” said Puschock, who had to help her costume-mates duck through doorways and maneuver through the packed alley.

To DiPietro, it was worth it. Before competition got underway, one of the pros stopped by to take a selfie with the five of them.

“I think when they’re here, they feel so comfortable and they want to talk to us,” DiPietro said. “And we’re like, wait, what? You’re the Michael Jordan of bowling right now.”

But the pros can’t get too serious when there are cutouts of their faces in the crowd. When one bowler accidentally tripped on the ball return, others halted competition to wrap it with “CAUTION” tape while spectators chanted, “safety first!”

For Kyle Troup of the Lumberjacks, his fans waved fat heads of the painter Bob Ross, whose afro resembles Troup’s.

“The crowd itself is always unique because you never know what you’re going to see,” Troup said. “The amount of love that these fans have for bowling really excites us – it’s definitely the highlight of our year.”

Sunday, Sparks will substitute his wrestler costume for his inflatable T-Rex one – a promise he made to Motown Muscle bowler Shota Kawazoe if they won (they did).

JoJoe Yannaphon of Bangkok, Thailand – who also bowls for the Lumberjacks – said “there’s nowhere in the world like this.”

“Everyone is friendly – I feel like home here,” Yannaphon said. “It’s the way bowling should be.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or

[email protected]

Twitter: TaylorVortherms

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