Lake Norman & Mooresville

C'mon over, let's toss a few bean bags

Susie Rogers watches a friend of her husband's toss an empty can toward the recycle bin beside her house. As it catches the crate's edge and rolls onto the grass, she works hard to suppress a smirk.

A comment, though, struggles, too, and before she can stifle it, "Nice," escapes past her lips, a bit of sarcasm dragging the word slowly along.

His sheepish grin tells her he recognizes the irony, too.

The whole purpose of Friday nights at Susie and Boone Rogers's house in Concord for the last year has been nothing but getting an object into its goal.

In their case it's called cornhole, a beanbag-toss game, quickly spreading locally.

"It's addicting," said Rogers, who turns his backyard into a cornhole tournament every Friday night, offering an open invitation to anyone who wants to pitch bags.

And like Rogers's group of 12 regulars, there are plenty of others who need a fix.

Drive through any nearby neighborhood and you're sure to see the rectangular platform boards with a hole cut near the top set out on sidewalks, driveways, and backyards, always with a crowd gathered round.

To date, The American Cornhole Association boasts over 30,000 members, with local teams formed in Cornelius, Concord, Kannapolis and Charlotte.

Steven Roberson, the facility and tournament supervisor for the Town of Huntersville, sits outside his house hear Highland Creek in University City texting friends to come over for a game. Tonight, they will take on his neighbors, seasoned players from across the street.

"It's a lazy man's way of being competitive," said Roberson, 26, who plays nearly every weekend. Sometimes, after a harrowing week at work, that's all anyone can manage.

The game's roots

Cornhole has its roots in the Midwest, where the game is a tradition at family picnics and sporting events. But as more people see the familiar boards set up everywhere from college football games to NASCAR races, the popularity of the game has picked up elsewhere across the nation, too, including in Cabarrus.

"Cornhole is the biggest tailgating thing I've seen these days," said Roberson, who first threw the corn-filled canvas bags as a student at East Carolina.

He has watched the game gain a following with families, too. "On Friday nights in the summer, we'll bring the boards out for special events and people will line up to play."

Its favor may stem from its ability to leap from generation to generation.

"We play so much we've worn the grass out," said Glenn Traill, a retired IBM Consultant living in Concord. He plays daily with his wife, Joy, and grandkids.

It's a dedication that has earned them membership into what they call The Four Hole Club.: When on a single turn, you put four bags in a hole.

Winning advice

Advice varies, though, on the best technique to ensure enrollment.

"If you toss it like a pancake, it will slide up the board and into the hole," said Traill. Traill began making gameboards after receiving one as a Christmas present. Popular requests, he said, are for college alma maters.

Rogers has his own theory. "When you put a spin on it, it cuts through the air," he said.

It's a skill he has had a year of Fridays to perfect.

When the hills behind his house snuff out the last bit of sunlight, he'll cut on the bright, portable lights, and they'll throw bags close to midnight.

A mix of plumbers, welders and painters, they use tools from their trades to make the game that much more enjoyable. Old metal pipes are fashioned by the plumbers into clever drink stands. A handful of colored clamps picked up from the hardware store pinch at the numbers on their poster-sized scoreboard.

Their silhouettes are all that can be seen. The heavy thud of canvas bags on pine board compete with the chirps of the crickets. Their kids flit about in the background, cupping fireflies in their hands.

"Remember when our parents played horseshoes, like this?" said one of the players.

It may remind them not only of that game, but also of its hey-day, an era when the pace was slower and the times were simpler.