Horseshoes draws staunchest support
The Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair kicks off today, with countless activities planned to meet the needs of both young and old.
On Sunday, fairgoers will be treated to the familiar sound of metal-on-metal when the annual Horseshoe Pitching Contest kicks off at the pits at 1 p.m.
Contestants of all ages will toss their shoes with the hopes of a ringer and weekend bragging rights.
Many familiar faces will migrate to the pits, including a pair of brothers, who use the fair, and horseshoes, as a way to bring each other together after spending most of the year apart.
Tunkhannock native Jerry Pelka, and his brother, Ken, of New Jersey, will team up at this year’s horseshoe competition in the senior group, a tradition now more than 10 years in the making.
The duo has been playing horseshoes for decades.
Both grew up in Wharton, New Jersey, and both ended up serving in the 86th Airborne Army division of the army for three years.
Jerry is retired from working in insurance, while Ken is retired from being a carpenter.
Jerry moved to Tunkhannock with work and has lived in T-Town for 35 plus years, while Ken still lives in New Jersey.
Both don’t see each other as much as they’d like, spending only a handful of days together throughout the year.
But just as the fair signals the beginning of the fall season, so, too, does it signal a family reunion of sorts.
Ken will again make the annual trip to NEPA for the fair, just like Jerry makes the annual trip to New Jersey to team up with his brother for the New Jersey State Fair.
“It’s definitely something we look forward to,” Jerry said.
Jerry is 71, but plays horseshoes every Thursday in tournaments held at the Factoryville Sportsmen’s Club.
“There’s definitely some serious throwers down there, “ he said.
He started his horseshoe ‘career’ like many other throwers: in the backyard.
His brother started out much in the same way, but at 68, has a slightly younger arm of the pair when it comes to throwing their ‘single-flip’ tosses.
The duo has managed some third and fourth place finishes at the fair, and are hoping to find themselves in the top names of the leader board at tournament’s end.
“We have hopes of finishing in the top three, though realistically it usually doesn’t work out that way,” Jerry chuckled. “We’ll probably end up more like fifth or sixth. Being in our golden years, we’ve got to be realistic.”
Jerry said the biggest thing that gets the brothers coming back is not only seeing each other, but seeing their friends.
“The camaraderie in horse shoes is the biggest reason why we go,” he said. “It’s a fun time and there’s a lot of competition. We enjoy it and everyone else there does, too.”
Aside from horseshoes, Jerry enjoys something that he has in common with most other folks at the fair: the food.
“I really enjoy that part,” he laughed. “When we’re playing there’s not too much time to wander around so I try to come on a different day because the food is my favorite part.”
He also said that the FSC keeps him active, especially during horseshoe tournaments, when ages can range from 13 to 87.
“We hope to pass what we know on to the younger guys, but sometimes its the older fellows learning from the kids, so it all works out,” he said.
But don’t let any age gap fool you. Jerry noted that he and his brother will still be on a pretty even playing field.
“Horseshoes allows older and younger players to compete on an even scale because all you have to do is be close, which only counts in horseshoes and grenades,” he said. “I haven’t thrown a grenade in 50 years!”
While the Pelkas may be one of the older teams competing on Sunday, they certainly will be having just as much fun as the younger crowd, which is really what the Wyoming County Fair is all about - fun for everyone.