On March 2nd and 3rd we had some very special people at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada. For the last 21 years the Special Olympics for Bowling has preceded the opening of the USBC Open Championships Tournament. Ninety-eight teams bowled in the Special Olympics this year with each team being made up of two Special Olympians and two unified bowlers. These participants traveled from 13 different states to take part in the tournament. If any of you have ever attended any of the Special Olympic events, you know that we could all learn from these kids. They are so proud and excited to be a part of this tournment. Each participant receives a medal and there are enough divisions so there are plenty of other awards and medals to be won. It doesn't matter whether a bowler knocks down 1 pin or 10. They clap and cheer for their teammates and there are plenty of high fives exchanged. It is a heart-warming and humbling experience to watch these kids. The staff really looks forward to this event every year.
On March 4th, the USBC Open Championships Tournament began. This is the 108th year for the tournament. There will be more than 12,600 teams attending from all over the United States, Canada Mexico, Europe and Asia. The tournament will last for 122 days with the first squad going on the lanes at 7 a.m. and the last squad at 11.30 p.m. seven days a week. That is more than 63,000 bowlers. Many of them bring family and friends with them and plan their vacations around the tournament and most of them return year after year. We had one bowler who has bowled in this tournament for 70 years! We also have several 50 year plaques to hand out this year. It is always fun to greet the return bowlers. We have a core group of travelers who work every year and it is like family reunion time when we all get back together at the start of each tournament. The balance of the employees are hired locally, so it is a great chance to make new friends as well. Homer and I have been doing this for 12 years and it has been a wonderful experience for us. I have had a chance to visit parts of the country that I might never have seen otherwise. Everywhere the tournament is held, there are always new things to see and do.