50th Annual Horseshoe Tournament Returns To Harry Wright Lake

A team of horseshoe players get ready during the 50th Annual Manchester Horseshoe Tournament held at Harry Wright Lake and sponsored by the township Recreation Department. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  MANCHESTER – For a half century people have been tossing horseshoes for an annual tournament at Harry Wright Lake – but it may not be about winning as much as just enjoying the comradery.

  The event held earlier this summer featured a test of skill and style. The attire for the day called for wearing your oldest Manchester Horseshoe Tournament shirt, as Brian Zak did, sporting his 45th anniversary tournament T-shirt for a chance to win a prize.

  Josh Schnoor was coordinating the event. He actually runs the IT department in the township. He noted that 15 years ago, “Randy from the garage used to run it and one day he said I don’t want to do it anymore and he needed someone to do it and I volunteered and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

  “It usually ends up at 1 or 2 p.m. with the singles and with the doubles tournament it will end around 6 or so. We have 68 people signed up for singles play and we’ll do doubles later and we usually we have around 50 or so teams for both,” he added.

  Schnoor said, “there is a double elimination bracket. The trophies and certificates are provided by Recreation. It is a great event and this is the 50th anniversary tournament. It always takes place here every year. I keep track of all the results and then I turn them over to Recreation.”

A horseshoe tossing duo line up to take aim during the recently held 50th Annual Manchester Horseshoe Tournament held at Harry Wright Lake. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “I don’t really play as much as these guys but I have a little bit of luck, I guess. I’m from Beachwood and we try to play this every year. I try to make every one that I can. This is the only tournament I play regularly. A friend introduced it to me 10 years ago. I do singles and doubles,” Zak said.

  He joked, “I made the mistake of getting married this weekend so I missed a few because of my anniversary. I was able to make it this year. I went to dinner last night so I could be here today.”

  Tug Barry of Bayville said he was introduced to the game through his family. “My uncles always threw horseshoes and when I was finally able to reach the pin finally, I got into it. It was usually at just barbeques and friend gatherings, family gatherings and when I got into my adult years, with family, wife and kids it became more about leagues and tournaments like this.”

  He added, “I found out about this from a friend through a friend kind of thing and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve been here for about 20 years and I love it. A lot of these guys are from Jackson, Howell, Brick, a lot of Ocean County players.”

  “A lot of these guys go to the same tournaments so it is kind of a community. A lot of these tournaments just spring up. You see them on a (social media) thread with other horseshoe players. Fundraisers come up and things like that and we’ll go to a lot of those. A lot of us are in leagues,” Barry added.

  Barry said, “there is the Toms River Elks, the Lacey Elks, Bayville Elks and a lot of us are part of those. It is just fun. We all just enjoy ourselves. We all come to participate and not compete. It always feels like a barbeque.”

By the end of the day, these shiny gold trophies were in the hands of the winning horseshoe throwers. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “I’ve been playing from 15 on,” Dan Knoellen of Bayville said. “My family grew up in Delaware so it was Chesapeake crab and horseshoes. It was what the family did to get together. I don’t play well but I love to play. Tug said it well, it’s a community. Friends you haven’t seen in a long time you catch up with and it just follows on through and when you see them again it starts back up from the conversation you had the year before or the month before depending on when you last saw them.”

  Watching on the sidelines were Whiting residents Bob and Nancy Hysing who took an interest in the tournament. “I’ve never played before,” Bob Hysing said.

  His wife added, “we come to the concerts out here on the lake all the time and we knew this was going on and we decided to come out and watch. Manchester is a good place to live.”

  “We’ve lived here for 38 years,” Bob Hysing added.