Pennsylvania Quoits Article

On the National AP Wire!

 

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In the Fall of 2003, Jennifer Kay, a reporter with the Associated Press, wrote an article for the AP wire service about Quoits, after visiting "The Quoit Pits" web site on the internet.  She contacted Troy Frey and Ken Kaas of the USQA, along with numerous other quoit players and references to complete the article, which was placed on the AP Wire and was published in many newspapers throughout the country.  This article below is from the San Francisco Chronicle, and was sent to The Quoit Pits by Casey Sluys, Vice President of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association. He spotted it in his local newspaper on October 5, 2003.  Looks like this Pennsylvania sport is finally getting some publicity outside of its local area, when the article shows up in places as far from home as California!

Please Don't Call it a Game of Horseshoes
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In Eastern Pennsylvania, They Love to Play Quoits

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By Jennifer Kay
The Associated Press

Sunday, October 5, 2003

 

GILBERTSVILLE - It certainly sounds like horseshoes on an early-autumn afternoon.

 

Metal rings clank against metal pins stuck in the dirt. The 12 men gathered after work on a private field in Montgomery County trade friendly insults between throws and sips of beer.  Each two-man team tries to rack up points with ringers, but ringers are hard to score with what they're throwing -- 4-pound cast-iron quoits.

 

Ken Kaas, of Boyertown, who organized this pitch, says most horseshoe players who learn quoits prefer the metal doughnut-shaped rings. He's backed by a chorus of "I hate horseshoes!" and "Horseshoes, that's the poor-man's quoits!"

The backyard games are similar in scoring, but quoits are thrown just 21 feet, half the distance of horseshoes.

Formal quoit leagues flourished in eastern Pennsylvania through the 1930s, but the game is not well-known outside the few communities that have passed the game from father to son for generations.

A park near Rick Walters' home outside St. Louis has horseshoe pits, but no one has ever heard of the game he learned as a child more than 40 years ago outside Danville, PA.  "When I was in seventh and eighth grade, we played every lunchtime in the quoit pits at the side of the school," said Walters, a dermatologist. "You threw the quoits with one hand and ate your sandwich with the other hand."  Walters, 56, travels across the country to play quoits now with family members in Wisconsin and Florida and Arizona. He made a special trip to Gilbertsville on Sept. 13 for the World Quoits Championship, a tournament Kaas organized for Pennsylvania quoit players.

Good quoit throws require a firm grip to keep the ring flying level, some heft to get it in the air, and maybe a flick of the wrist for spin. The best way to rack up points is for the quoit to slide completely around the pin for a ringer. Points are also awarded for landing close to the pin, and quoits can be thrown to block an opponent's shot.

Playing styles depend on local tradition. Quoits, usually weighing 3 or 4 pounds, are about six inches across and are made from steel, brass or bronze.  "Trenton Style Quoits," played in New Jersey with larger, lighter rings, doesn't get much respect west of the Delaware River.  "Everybody laughs at that," Kaas said.  "It's like throwing a hula hoop."

When Jim Ruyak was growing up in Pottstown, all his neighbors had quoits and games often progressed from one house to the next down the alley.  "We had sets in the backyard with the old cut off parts of drain pipes (for quoits);  they were cast iron from a foundry," Ruyak said.  These days, Ruyak, a 36-year-old engineer from Bechtelsville, can be found after work or on the weekends pitching 4-pound quoits into dirt pits with Kaas and other friends from the Pottstown Area.

Troy Frey, of Mount Joy, plays a Lancaster version of the game, pitching into clay pits that limit the quoits' bounce. He traces the games roots from ancient Greek discus throwers to 19th century English pub leagues on his Web site. www.quoitpits.com"I guess back in the original Grecian Olympics the discus throw was not the discus you think of now, but was a circular ring of stone or iron with a strap through the middle, and the thrower would spin it around by the strap and it was called a "quoit," (pronounced KWOIT), Frey said.

Though its origins in Pennsylvania are unknown, quoits developed as a regional game in rural, isolated communities that identified it as part of their local heritage, said Simon Bronner, a professor of folklore and American studies at Penn State University in Harrisburg.

Lehigh Valley players play quoits as an indoor game with rubber quoits pitched onto angled slate boards from local quarries.  "Up here in Phillipsburg (N.J.) and Easton in the bars, quoits are more popular than pool tables and darts," said John Hawk Jr., 32, who sells slate quoit sets on his Web site, www.quoitsdirect.com.

Lancaster County's Amish and Mennonite communities often bring 3-pound quoits to summer picnics and family reunions.  Walter Augsberger, a Mennonite farmer, pitched quoits with his father during lunch or after supper on their farm in northern Lancaster County.  "At parties or picnics when the eating part of the party started, the kids would quick eat and run to play while the adults ate," said Augsburger, 67, "and when the men finished eating, then the kids would have to yield to them to play."

Paul Burkholder ships sets nationwide from his home hardware store Ephrata East End Mart, to former Pennsylvanians looking for the game.  He said his quoit sales have increased about 50 percent in the last couple of years, and he speculates the game is getting a boost at home as well.  He buys brass and steel quoits from an Amish farmer with a foundry on his property.  "He told me  - and he's an Amish bishop - That they're really pushing quoits among the Amish boys because they're starting to play baseball and wearing uniforms," which their church doesn't approve, Burkholder said.  

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