Ryan Pierce displays Sunday September 1, 2019 the ribbon he received for competing in the cornhole tournament at the Windsor Fair with his teammate Natasha Littlefield, right. Everyone who tossed a bean bag received a ribbon. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

 

WINDSOR — In the constant motion and din of the Windsor Fair, the cornhole tournament Sunday brought its own rhythm and action.

There is a certain thwack-thump noise made when a canvas bag filled with 16 ounces of dried corn is propelled through the air hits a slanted wooden board 27 feet away.

Magnified by 40 teams playing with four bags each at the same time, and the chorus is just enough to drown out most of the ambient fair noise.

Cornhole, a staple of summer cookouts and apparently football tailgate parties, is all the rage.

From his position beyond the fence at Memorial Park on Sunday morning, Emery Pierce, second vice president and trustee on the fair board, watched the tournament for a while before being called away on fair business.

Sunday was his first experience with the game.

“It looks like a combination of bean bags and horseshoes,” he said. “It looks like fun.”

And this year was the first year it has been a thing at the Windsor Fair. Teams traveled from across Maine, and from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, to sign up Saturday and compete Sunday.

Ryan Pierce is not an old hand at the game. Including Sunday, he has played cornhole four times this summer. But it was enough to explain the basics of the game: “You have four bags each. If it lands on the board, it’s a point. If it goes in the hole, that’s three points. That’s better. Then you subtract the score. If I get four points and they get three, then I get one point.”

Two boards are placed 27 feet apart. One member from each team stands by a board and throws to the opposite board.

The goal, as it is with many games, is to score the most. But it can take a while to reach 21.

Sunday’s tournament was organized Garret Barajas of Windsor. And even before it ended, he was pleased with how it was working out. All 40 slots were filled, and people were having fun.

“It’s been a popular sport and every age can play it,” Barajas said. “It’s growing on people and more and more tournaments are being held around the state, so we pulled this one together.”

Sunday’s tournament was a double-elimination tournament. That means if you lose two games, you are out. Over the course of the morning, successive innings eliminated team after team.

For the team of Adam Sellers of Windsor and Josh Bailey of China, the competition was short but intense. After five games, they were out.

After brief consideration, Sellers, 37, said, “We got beat by a better team.”

After signing up Saturday, Sellers put in about an hour’s worth of practice to get ready for the competition.

“It’s like studying for an exam the day before,” he said.

Competitors hurl Sunday September 1, 2019 beanbags during the cornhole tournament at the Windsor Fair.

Bailey, 24, was the more experienced of the two because he has his own equipment and can play at will.

“We always play cornhole at get-togethers,” Bailey said, “so we figured we would play at a tournament at the fair.”

The tournament brings a more competitive vibe, he said, because the other teams are better and that makes the game a bit tougher.

What separates Sellers and Bailey from the other teams that advanced, it turns out, is a bit of strategy and technique. They did not have much of either, while other teams appeared to have more.

There is some debate about technique: Some people toss it underhand. Others use a wrist flick to throw the bag like a Frisbee, so it rotates and lands flat. Some have even thrown it overhand.

“It seems like the better players we’ve faced, they spin it and it hits flat rather than lands on a corner. Maybe I’ll change my technique,” Bailey said. “I think the better teams have strategy. I just hope to hit the board, maybe land it in the hole every once in a while.”

After watching a couple of strong teams for a few minutes, Bailey seemed swayed by the results of the spinning technique.

Ryan Pierce, right, shakes Sunday September 1, 2019 hands with Josh Bailey after competing against each other in the cornhole tournament at the Windsor Fair. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

He said he will return next year with Sellers and try again. They might even practice.

The teammates have very different plans for recovering from their loss. Sellers said he might recover from the competition with a cold beverage, while Bailey favored the “fair food” cure; specifically, fried Oreos.

While there is a professional association, the American Cornhole Association, and tournaments are aired on cable television, Sellers and Bailey say they are not ready for prime time. A rumor was circulating Sunday, however, that a team that had traveled up from the Portland area is looking to break into the pro circuit.

“There’s only one place for our career in cornhole to go,” Sellers said, “and that’s up.”


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