A wink and a nod (to charity)

Saukville Lions’ 20-year tiddlywinks event keeps them flicking for a good cause

KYLE “THE HAMMER” STEFFEN of Fredonia let a wink fly toward the pot on Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt

TYLER deBRUIJN used a squidger to try and pot a wink during the Saukville Lions’ annual tiddlywink tournament last Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt

SOME WINKERS AT THE LIONS tiddlywink tournament were more serious than others, but having fun and raising money for charity was the overall goal. Many contestants wear costumes, such as (second from bottom photo, from left) Jon Sell, Isaac Kapp, Brad Haas, and Lauren and Robert Brooks, who dressed like Brittany Spears. More professional looking was the Dicks T-Winks traveling team (bottom photo), consisting of (from left) Logan Armstrong, John Sadowski, Lindsay Stevens, Robert Stevens, Josh Bullock and Jeff and Melissa Kluender. Photos by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

March, some people say, is the best month of the year for sports. There’s NCAA basketball, spring training in baseball and, at least in Saukville, tiddlywinks.

The Saukville Lions Club tiddlywinks tournament has been an annual rite of late winter for 20 years now and is one of the club’s largest fundraisers, club President Mike Krocka said.

“This is a good one for us,” he said. “Our beer and wine tasting is the only one that’s bigger.”

Last Saturday’s tiddlywinks tournament drew nearly 30 teams to the Railroad Station tavern in Saukville. Some teams came from Milwaukee and elsewhere in Wisconsin and even Illinois.

And while the spirit of the event is all about fun, about a third of the “winkers,” as they are called, take the game very seriously.

“I’m no pro like some of these guys are,” Krocka said.

Some teams travel almost every weekend in the winter to tournaments all over the state, said Don Clark, a Lions Club member who helps organize the event. 

“Some of the teams can get pretty technical (about the rules). We’re kind of relaxed and there are some teams who just want to have fun. That causes some tension,” he said.

For many of the teams, especially the locals, it’s traditional to wear costumes. Some years, prizes are handed out for the best dressed.

Most people who know anything about tiddlywinks played it as children. But the game dates back to the 1880s, has had periods of extreme popularity, especially in the British Isles, and has detailed rules for competitive play and its own language.

There’s also a North American Tiddlywinks Association that sanctions official competitions. The Saukville Lions’ event is not one of them.

Tiddlywinks is played on a flat felt mat with sets of small discs called “winks,” a pot which is the target, and a collection of “squidgers,” discs used to shoot a wink into flight by flicking the squidger across the top of a wink and then over its edge and sending it into the air. 

A wink that lands in the pot scores points. Defensively, one player can prevent another player from scoring by “squopping” them, that is, shooting a wink so it lands on top of an  opponent’s wink. 

Lisa Clark, Don’s wife, leads a team each year consisting of friends and family. This year, practice included everyone coming over to the Clarks’ house last week “to goof around,” she said.

“We’re the team that pretty much just comes to have fun.”

So how do they fare against some of the more serious teams?

“We really take it in the shorts,” Lisa Clark said, although she said her team has finished second twice and first one year, winning a plaque and some prize money.

“It’s more fun to play against the fun teams and not the serious ones,” she said. 

Krocka said the tournament came about as a fundraising idea soon after the local club was created. “We were looking for fundraising ideas and someone mentioned that Schwai’s (Meat and Sausage Market) was doing it.”

Krocka said he had never heard of tiddlywinks before. “I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ But we decided to do it,” he said.

At first they tried a two-day tournament, which drew 64 teams. They later made it a one-day event that now includes raffles for meat, gift baskets and 50-50 cash prizes. Food also is sold.

The club typically raises $3,000 to $5,000 for scholarships and community projects through the tournament. “Eighty percent of the money we make comes from the raffles,” Krocka said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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