Sticks and stones won't break these bones

By Geoff Lee

July 26, 2017 4:03 PM

The Town of Macklin is hosting the 25th Annual World Championship Bunnock Tournament throughout the first weekend of August, which will welcome 320 teams from around the world to Macklin Lake Regional Park. File Photo

Make no bones about it, the Town of Macklin Sask. is hosting the 25th annual World Championship Bunnock Tournament.
The event is played with authentic horse ankle bones and will involve 320 teams from around the world at Macklin Lake Regional Park Aug. 4-6.
One of the players will be the town’s mayor and bunnock promoter, Patrick Doetzel who is a perennial participant.
“I’m not quite up to the championship level, but I try,” he said.
He says it’s a game that everybody of all age groups can actually grab onto and really enjoy playing.
Competitors at the worlds have ranged from four up to 95 years-old with past champions returning year after year.
To mark the 25th anniversary and Canada 150 celebrations, there will be parade with special events celebrating the success of the bunnock tournament all these years.
The inaugural tournament was the brainchild of the Macklin Credit Union who handed it over to a committee as it grew like a weed after that first year.
Doetzel said if you play bunnock, as he does, you can understand why the tournament has endured and why it will be continue to be popular.
“It’s such an easy game to play;’ it’s a coed game; it’s kind of non competitive while still a little competitive,” he said.
The game has a Russian-German heritage and is usually played with teams of four who try to knock down the opposing teams’ rows of bones with the throwers that target guard bones first to avoid penalties.
Each team takes turns throwing and the team which knocks down their opponents’  bones first is declared the winner.
This year, there is more than $30,000 in prize money to be handed out with plenty of sponsored consolation prizes available.
“There are lots of opportunities to come away a winner if you’re not a champion,” said Doetzel.
The tournament is a major economic generator for Macklin whose population of about 1,500 will more than double to more than 3,500 over the weekend.
“As a community, we lift most of the rules, so you’ve got campers sitting all over the place,” said Doetzel.
The event kicks off with a bigger than ever trade show at the arena on Friday night where all players come to register and find out who they are playing and on what court.
The schedule of events includes beer gardens, dances, children’s rides and pancake breakfasts.
The games take place Saturday and Sunday on 46 courts with a champion crowned that evening.
There are no synthetic bones in play.
“They are all authentic horse ankle bones; every set on that field is authentic,” said Doetzel.
“It’s something the committee wanted to go with.”
Doetzel calls them collectors’ items as no one makes them any more.
“Traditionally they’re like gold, if you’ve got them you don’t get rid of them,” he said.
The town’s tourism booth is shaped as a giant bunnock that attracts a massive number of tourists each year.
“We have a game set up outside so they can actually play it, so anybody passing through understands it and will remember it,” said Doetzel.

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