From curling to cornhole: Lake Region Curling Club hosts North Dakota ACL Championships

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal
The North Dakota ACL State Championships took place at the Lake Region Curling Club in Devils Lake over the weekend (June 17-19).

DEVILS LAKE – While they might be well-known for the on-ice spectacle that comes with curling, the Lake Region Curling Club had a chance to be the venue of choice for a summer sport activity: cornhole. 

The North Dakota American Cornhole League (ACL) State Championships took place in Devils Lake over the weekend at the club’s location (June 17-19). Per the league’s official website, the ACL creates and manages special events, advises on expanding outside competitions, develops cornhole equipment, and educates others on positioning the sport for growth and success. 

Travis Kitchens is the current state ACL director for North Dakota. Travis’ interest in the sport came after he was “bit” by the cornhole bug after attending the 2021 ACL State Championships in Bismarck. 

Travis has since looked to grow cornhole in North Dakota. More specifically, Travis has wished to localize the event. And so, Travis looked to an area he already had a prior history. 

Enter Devils Lake. 

“Well, what I looked at was trying to keep it somewhat centralized so that no one had to make seven, eight-hour drive to get to the event, and that would help increase participation,” Travis said. “So, I was looking at Devils Lake, Minot [and] Bismarck as the most centrally located places and having that connection with the [Lake Region] Curling Club as a place where we could do it was the final selling piece.” 

Travis’ father, Jeffrey Kitchens, is the current treasurer for the Lake Region Curling Club. Due to the building’s inactivity during the summer offseason, Jeffrey saw the tournament as an opportunity for the venue to open its doors for something new. 

From the opportunity, Jeffrey sees an avenue for the Lake Region Curling Club to expand in what takes place at the site, curling or otherwise. 

“It’s great that he [Travis] asked to do it here,” Jeffrey said. “I know he was looking at a few other places in town here, but the casino was booked and busy, and since he is a relative and a curler…The Curling Club doesn’t get used hardly at all in the summer, so we figured, let’s try it out because we’ve been trying to get cornhole in here, and we’ve been talking about doing pickleball, too, in the summertime. So, it’s just an event so that the city and the people around here can see what we have available.” 

While less than a dozen players signed up on the days leading up to when the bags officially flew, this was expected. After all, from Travis’ experience, 20-50 players typically sign up on the day the event gets underway. Three separate divisions, including double-elimination events aside from sit-and-go’s, helped make up the tournament lineup. 

Junior play was an additional option. After a local venue – Pop’s Goodtime Bar – added $500 to the division payout, Travis continued to emphasize the importance of growing the sport locally and regionally. Players 17 and younger will make up junior status beginning Aug. 31. 

It all starts with getting the youth involved, according to Travis. 

“I think the youth is huge,” Travis said. “I think you look at a lot of activities and sports, and the cost is insane. You have to have a certain number of players. Some kids play, some don’t. You know, with cornhole, if that became a youth sport, a high school sport, everybody plays. Everyone gets a chance and gets to get out there and meet other kids from other communities. It’s just the future of everything like I said. If you don’t have youth, you’re [going to] die out eventually.” 

Both Jeffrey and Travis see an opportunity to not only put on competition but additionally build on the family-friendly camaraderie that comes with playing cornhole. 

From this observation, both see future possibilities for both the club and cornhole as a whole. If anything, the pair sees the event (and potential future ones) as another summer activity for all that are interested. 

“Like I said earlier, just getting people out so they can see what the club looks like and see the facility that we have up here,” Jeffrey said. “It is one of the better facilities in the state actually, for size-wise and room upstairs. We always have a little area up here for eating and [a] bar…because, after curling, you go and socialize after the game. Winner buys.”

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.