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Dart throwers compete in regional event

Hundreds of dart throwing enthusiasts converged on New Richmond last weekend to compete in the Twin States Music's 28th annual Regional Dart Tournament.

The event, featuring upwards of 750 competitors over four days, kicked off with action promptly Thursday morning. Competitors come to the annual regional event from approximately a 100-mile radius, according to Phil Bleile, dart league administrator.

"It's one of the biggest dart tournaments around," Bleile said, noting that competitive darts are a big deal in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

"It's probably because it's a good way to spend your winter," he said. "And it's just fun for dart players of all skill levels."

About 1,300 dart throwers from the region compete in 30 leagues affiliated with the Twin States Music organization.

According to Bleile, throwers have to participate in league competitions a set number of times during the winter to qualify for the regional tournament. More than 150 four-member teams sign up for the annual competition.

The walls of the banquet room at Ready Randy's in New Richmond were lined with electronic dart machines as competitors competed head-to-head in various divisions and competition styles. The room was filled with high-energy music to keep the dart throwers pumped up. Food and beverages were served throughout the day.

One of the weekend participants was Chris Hayes, general manager of Ready Randy's, who took up dart throwing four years ago to find out what the sport was all about. He's been lobbying officials with the Regional Dart Tournament to move the event to New Richmond for a couple years and this year it finally happened.

A five-year dart player, Scott Milich said he enjoys the challenging regional event and likens it to how his wife goes to scrapbooking retreats for the weekend.

"It's about guys getting together, drinking beer and telling stories," he said.

It's also about doing well in head-to-head competition with other dart lovers, he said.

Josh Calleja, another tournament participant from New Richmond, said he likes the laid-back atmosphere of dart leagues and tournaments.

"It's serious to an extent, but not too serious," he said. "Everybody who throws are good people."

Calleja said he's been a dart league participant for two years and is gradually getting the hang of the sport. He clearly was having a good time right away Thursday morning, along with the dozens of other dart throwers in the room at the time.