The shoe fits for these club members
Horseshoes are a ringer at the Trumbull County Fair.
By JENNINE ZELEZNIK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
BAZETTA -- He stood in khaki-colored pants and a white dress shirt, his wide-brimmed straw hat blocking out the evening sun.
Slowly, concentrating hard on his target, the Warren resident pulled back his arm, then smoothly tossed the 21/2-pound object he'd held.
The iron horseshoe sailed through the air, then clinked against a metal pole -- another ringer for 82-year-old Bart Mozingo.
Tournament: Mozingo, a member of the Champion Horseshoe Club, is participating in the club's weeklong tournament at the Trumbull County Fair. The club has six permanent courts on a small rectangle of land at the fairgrounds.
Other weeks of the year, the members pitch Mondays (for singles) and Tuesdays (for teams) during the warm months.
Though they'll pitch at night -- the courts are lighted -- and during the muggiest August evening, "We don't pitch during the winter," said tournament director Walt Crawford of Howland.
"I go to Arizona in the winter to pitch," he added, laughing.
The average age of club members is 60, Crawford said, though they'll accept anyone interested in pitching horseshoes -- or even learning how.
"There's a lot of nice people in this club," he said, brushing a hand over the top of his red ball cap. "I've never met a horseshoe pitcher I didn't like."
Attracting new members: Part of the reason the club has the weeklong tournament is to attract new members, he said. They have about 20 members now, he added, though they've had as many as 50 in years past.
Many of the members got hooked on horseshoes in their childhood.
Mozingo, who grew up on a farm in Indiana, said he's been pitching since he was 6 years old -- almost 75 years.
"It was during the depression, and horseshoes was something that didn't cost anything to do," he said. Mozingo has won state horseshoe championships in Indiana and Florida. "It's a skill -- it's not just something that you play behind the barn."
Loretta Koski of Howland -- the only woman pitching in the club -- is another who started during childhood.
Every Sunday, she, her six brothers and lots of uncles played at her grandmother's place.
"I'd get right in there with my uncles," she said, laughing. "I love it -- I love horseshoes."
Now, she herself is a grandmother, and is instilling a love of the pastime into her own family.
"My son just built a pit behind his house," she said with a smile. "They all like it."
Women should join: Koski encourages other women to join the club, and urges them not to worry about their male counterparts.
"The men who play here are gentlemen -- real gentlemen," she said. "They treat you very nicely."
The Champion Horseshoe Club will be pitching from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. tonight at the fairgrounds. Crawford urges people to check it out.
Besides, with a $35 per year membership, "it's still a sport where you don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun," he said.