>> BY Peter Worden
It’s a muddy, boozy, busy, nudity-filled baseball tournament Revelstoke’s lucky to have.
This year’s August long-weekend Glacier Challenge slo-pitch tournament (Aug. 4-7) will bring around 1,500 fun-loving visitors—many diehard returnees like the Lumby Drillers who have played all 30 years—and untold economic spinoff to town. The financial bottom line of the tournament has alternated in the red and black over the decades, and this 30th year marks not only a milestone but a test of viability.
What began in 1987 as the Kokanee Glacier Challenge was once a beer company-sponsored mega-event with an all-time high of 144 teams. Since then, it has shrunk by half as interest waned and sponsors dried up, leaving organizers scrambling and a proud tournament reeling for some of its former glory.
Last year, with only a handful of volunteers, Glacier Challenge almost didn’t happen. But like the 69 teams enduring a weekend of torrential downpours and hail, organizers Mark and Jen Baron and Maggie Spizzirri soldiered on.
The elements mangled tents, made ponds in the infield, and the homerun derby asteroided unfortunately situated vehicles. But despite the poor weather and last-minute planning, criticism was minimal, constructive and the ball tournament has lived to see another summer.
This year, organizers have capped the number of teams at 70 and increased the prize money, so each team has the best all-round playing experience. Players in the beer-league slo-pitch tournament have often placed a heavy emphasis on the ‘beer’ part, so it’s one area organizers are anxious to improve on with a Family Zone, plus entertainment, food and contests open to everyone. The 30th year is as much for visitors as for locals. It’s bottom of the ninth, bases loaded for the tournament, that now, needs to hit one out of the park.