If you had asked me a year ago what pickleball was, I would have said something to do with throwing pickles. Fast forward to today, and I’ve got a whole new level of pickleball appreciation, thanks to a local guy named Mickey Collins who happened upon my office one day!
Merriam just finished up a 3-day inaugural pickleball festival called “Third Shot’s a Charm” which came to pass mainly because the Facebook Pickleball Forum mentioned how cool it would be to host an event once the forum gained 10,000 followers. Well, if you know anything about pickleball, you know it spreads like wildfire and it took very little time to hit that 10K mark. After it did, Mickey began talks with a California pickleballer named Aspen Kern who also helped coordinate efforts for the festival. Due to our affordable and convenient (and super friendly) midwestern location, Merriam was the clear choice for hosting TSAC, and with only three months to plan (which is like four minutes to a CVB), we went to work.
What I didn’t expect was the immediate outpouring of volunteer support and comments that quickly began circulating about how excited people were to meet in person after only connecting through the online forum for months. News traveled fast about the inaugural meet-up, and soon we began receiving requests for visitor guides. Franklin Sports reached out to see how they could help and things began to come together. Although I don’t personally play pickleball (yet), I was allowed into the forum and could see the buzz surrounding this event. I knew then, this group of people will be fun to host in Merriam.
I was right! From the gate, people began filing in early on Friday morning, ready to play. We setup a little welcome booth with our local Povitica dessert bread (which I claimed to be a “carb” boost before taking the court), we asked people to pin their pickleball home state on our map and we answered questions about where to dine, shop and explore. All day long, people came and went, but the courts were NEVER empty. I heard from event organizers that the lights had to be turned out for people to realize it was time to put the paddles (and themselves) to rest for the night.
The evening opening reception was a blast too…there was dancing and wine tasting and socializing, Kansas City BBQ, local entertainment, prizes and more—everyone just seemed to be thrilled to be together. I was in awe of how connected these people were, some having met in person for the first time just hours ago across a net.
After three days of pickleballin’ in Merriam, Kansas, it was time to pack up and say goodbye. Rob Noonan from Sioux Falls, SD, best summarized the event in a video he made walking back to the courts, and his sentiment was echoed by everyone. A week later, the forum is still chatting about how much fun they had, when will we plan another, etc. etc. I can tell you one thing–these pickleballers are welcome in Merriam anytime. I had absolutely the most amazing time meeting and greeting this group!
While Merriam may not be big enough to accommodate large sporting events or headliner concerts, the Pickleball Forum was Just Right and we are so pleased to have been your host. Come see us again next year!