- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) - An adrenaline rush can come from many things.

For some, it’s the speed of racing a car, the swish of a basketball falling uninterrupted through a net or even the starting gun at a track and field race.

But for a select few, it’s the sound of metal on metal, a sound that while not often heard today actually that dates back centuries.

“I just love the sound of the ringers hitting those poles,” said local resident Duane Coan of his beloved horseshoes. “It’s something I remember as a kid living here in the 1960s. I remember seeing those pits at Gregg Park just full of people.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of strength,” he said. “You’re just pitching from 30 or 40 feet away, but it’s a great sound.

“And a great feeling, too.”

The game of horseshoes dates back to the second century, according to a history put together by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association. It was popular following the Revolutionary War, and the English were the first to develop specific rules just after the turn of the century.

The game evolved and was immensely popular from the 1930s on into the ‘60s.

But in recent years, people have - at least for the most part - given up the game of horseshoes, trading it in for corn hole or washers, where the equipment can be easily transported from one location to another.

But Coan would still walk past the old horseshoe pits at Gregg Park and remember fondly his youth and pitching horseshoes with family and friends.

Then suddenly, one evening, he heard that familiar sound.

“I could never find anybody to play with me, and then there he was,” Coan said of Dr. Neil Sweigart, a local chiropractor. “I noticed him down there once or twice pitching, so I decided to go over and we started talking.”

Sweigart, too, played horseshoes as a young man and decided to take the game up again last summer. He now plays in tournaments all over the state and even drives to Terre Haute once a month to pitch in a league there.

The two began playing together and now hope to put together a full league of members. They have started their own Facebook page and hosted an informational meeting at Sweigart’s office.

“I started talking to friends, my patients, and before I knew it I had a list of people who were interested in joining a league,” Sweigart said excitedly. “I used to play at family reunions, things like that, and it’s just one those relaxing, lifetime sports you can continue to play even as you age, like tennis or golf.

“Long-term, I’d like to see us get some use out of those pits again at Gregg Park, get a bunch of guys pitching again. I think we’re just excited to try and bring this game back to life.”

Steve Beaman, superintendent of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, isn’t sure how old the Gregg Park pits are, but he remembers them as a child. The weekends, he said, he can remember “people lined up” waiting to take their turn.

“But for a long time,” he said, “they just sat there.”

Beaman said his crews have worked to keep the horseshoe clay pits in pretty good shape - the backboards and poles are relatively new - but actual pitchers have been few and far between.

At least until Sweigart and Coan started putting them to use again.

Still, Beaman said if a league is to form, he’d like to raise enough money to repair the fence around it and perhaps make some improvements to the storage shed nearby.

Sweigart has already arranged for Jones and Sons to donate enough concrete to repair the women’s and senior’s pads.

“I just think it’s a great fit for the park,” Beaman said. “We’ve been trying to do things to get more people in the park, offer them more opportunities to be active. We’ve got new playground equipment, a new pool and we want to do a new walking trail, too.

“When you go to a park, you don’t want to just sit. You want to move, so I’m looking forward to this new partnership. Hopefully, it really grows into something.”

Sweigart said he and Coan also hope to hold some kind of demonstration workshop and open house on a Saturday in April, all in an effort to share the game they have loved for so long with, hopefully, a new generation.

“We want to encourage people of all ages,” Sweigart said. “If you go to horseshoe tournaments, there are a lot of older men, women, too, but some of them even have youth divisions.

“And the thing I really enjoy about it is the people I meet,” he went on. “I’ve even met a lot of people right here in Vincennes that I didn’t know. It’s an individual sport and yet it’s not. I enjoy going out and throwing by myself just as much as I do pitching with other people.”

“It’s a good social-type gathering,” Coan added, “just a really fun time. And we hope people decide to join us.”


Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://bit.ly/1QYiHj0


Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://www.vincennes.com

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