The Lowdown on Throwdowns by Pete Bonkemeyer (April 26, 2017)
Given the current state of the sport, hosting an official IKTHOF Association event can be a daunting task. Of 480 or so members, far fewer than half regularly attend events. Many of those can only afford attendance at one or two events a year; like me, living on disability. Only three dozen or so members have the time, resources and commitment to throw in more than two. That leaves a very limited pool of possible paying attendees.
Mike Bainton’s event in Austin draws the most throwers, and for good reason. He’s the granddaddy of organized knife throwing and a charismatic man, along with his sidekick and emcee, Jack Dagger. The South Austin Karate venue in October is a good one and those guys do it up right. Legends fill the lanes. Yet, if that venue were not already in place, the proposition of a large scale, world championship-type event would be an expensive undertaking, especially now that pro really means pro.
On the other hand, the Austin setup is not conducive to spectators, especially not paying ones. A hundred contestants and some staff and family left little room for such this past October.
The Cuenca Superhero Foundry crew does an equally fine job in April every year, but the indoor venue is cramped, with little space for practice or for spectators. TJ and Melody are young and innovative, though. They represent the future of the sport, if it is to have a professional future. Those superheroes in Vegas will work it out.
And again, at least that venue is in place.
Other events include the Texas State Championship in March, the Canadian Championship in June, the new Georgia Regionals hosted by the charming Tracy Tenny in February.
The Instinctive Throwers held their Red River event, hosted by Michael Buzbee and friends in North Texas, in March. Not sure if there will be a repeat at this point. Pat Minter has his throwdown in Hawkins, TX, in March. Cliff Hill has a mountain man throw down in central Texas in early Dec.
If you live in Texas, Average Joe, you can make more than two throws a year, but not anywhere else.
Joe Darrah has his AKTA Brokenfeather Palooza in Pennsylvania in May. Chill Bill Lagrasso has a mountain man birthday party throw in Big Bear in July, but the powers that be say the results don’t count because Bill does it Bill’s way and as far as I know, no IKTHOF board member has been present.
From what I hear, the throwers who attend come to have a good time and beat the July heat. I don’t think they’ll lose any sleep over it, especially Bill. They don’t call him Chill for nothing.
I’ll be checking that one out in person this year.
Anybody want to sponsor me?
See? You must be on it all the time.
Like Quicksilver Cuenca.
The Minutemen have had a couple of throws in Boston and upstate New York in September, but not this year. The High Desert Throwers of NM will try to have a throw in September, instead, if two of us live that long, but that’s mighty close timewise to the big event in Austin and Socorro is a long way from anywhere, even Tucumcari.
The Eurothrowers have championships, too, usually in late August, and in cool places like Sherwood Forest and Prague and Hungary. Some noteworthy Americans have attended, like Rick the Rocket Lemberg, the Cuencas, the Boobinators Eisenberg, Richard Bullseye Wesson, John Grabowski and Joe Brokenfeather Darrah.
All acquitted themselves well.
A few Eurothrowers show up in Austin or even Vegas every year, like Mikhail Sedyshev, Werner Lengmueller, Richard Sunderland, Mike Munkhbold and Adam Celadin. The best Gold Cup Tomahawk match I have personally witnessed was between Werner and Hillbilly Pearl in 2014.
The Canadians show up every year, led by Ward Hightower Wright. Blade throwing sports are thriving in Canada. Just ask Bo Tait, who has a fine facility and will probably host a throw in the very near future.
The Russians were well represented last year and one year an Indonesian contingent showed up.
Rick the Rocket has friends in that part of the world, but man, he’s even got friends in outer space.
And if you’ve never seen Blind Lee Fugatt throw, then you’ve missed something special.
More reasons why Austin is so popular, and could easily be more so in the future.
But they might need a new venue, which won’t be easy.
Not much of a calendar left from which to choose a date, after all that, and every Average Joe’s resources are scarce, whether as host or attendee.
Consequently, if you talk to anybody who has ever hosted an organized throw, they will tell you a break-even proposition is about the best you can expect.
The smaller events are lucky to draw 25 paying entrants. That barely covers materials, certificates and awards, if that, much less anything like event insurance, pro cash prizes, cool bling, or a banquet or a cookout.
Unfortunately, though I repeat myself, that’s the current state of the sport.
Discouraged, now, are you?
Don’t be, at least not totally. ‘The times they are a-changing.’
While they are, think about these ideas on how to establish a successful throwing club and put on a break-even event. If you start now, you’ll be ready when the sport of blade throwing levels up.
Notice I mention “successful throwing club” first. You can’t put on a good event without support from a local club unless you’re famous, and even that is no guarantee.
I think Pat Minter would testify to that, though he’d claim he isn’t famous, just misunderstood.
And no, reader, you’re not famous, so forget it. A lot of stars out there, in this age of social media, but few of high magnitude, and fewer still prone to wander.
You’ll need help from local brothers and sisters of the knife to put on a show. If we want blade throwing to be recognized as legitimate, organized and worthy of sponsorship, we need to grow and promote the sport at a grass roots level. I know without asking that this is supposed to be an intrinsic and very important duty of every IKTHOF member.
You, Average Joe Thrower, and your members, whether IKTHOF, AKTA, or none of the above, must be seriously committed, willing and able to work to build a club, organize an event, and do it all right.
Or you can just hang in the backyard and throw by yourself or with your beer drinking buddies. I won’t judge you either way.
Only if you decide to do it and then do it half-assed.
As I learned from champion Christopher Miller, the first step in organizing an official club is to apply for an Employer Identification Number, EIN. The process takes about 3 minutes at the IRS website. Here is the link. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online.
Just follow directions. Once the IRS generates an EIN for you, print out the page, which will show the name of your club and your EIN. With an EIN, you can accept donations from individuals and corporate entities, which are then tax deductible for the donor.
As long as you generate less than $5000 in yearly gross receipts, you do not have to file an IRS form 1023 or 1024 to start an official not-for-profit club, yet you can still claim to be an officially recognized non-profit organization. You’ll need to file a form 990N every year at tax time, though, which requires no itemization of income or expenditures.
Make sure you keep good records, anyway, including the value of donated supplies and materials.
If you generate more than $5000, you will want to start a 501c3 charity with a form 1023.
If asked what service your club provides, just say you are promoting your community’s overall health and social welfare, or team up with a local charity and donate any excess funds, which you can then write off yourself.
I recommend this process for all clubs, whether an event is organized or not. Next, study up on all the IKTHOF Rules and Standard Operating Procedures. If you want your scores to be IKTHOF official, you must follow the rules.
If you want to make up your own and do your own thing, more power to you, but you better have cash. Event insurance is expensive.
So, now that you have an official club, what comes next in planning a throwdown?
Sure, you can host a throw in your backyard, but if participants pay the usual event entry fee, they will expect the same facilities and amenities to which they are accustomed at other events, like Austin, or Vegas, or Ontario.
Talk to your local government’s Activity Director, or Tourism Director, or Recreation Director. Tell them you are covered under the IKTHOF event insurance umbrella. If your throw is official, IKTHOF’s event insurance will cover you. Also, ask if you can hold your event at a city park or other facility. Ask if the city can help financially, or work in partnership with you, or cover you under their event insurance if your throw is not official. Make it something people will want to come watch, so you can recruit new members. You might even offer lessons at your event, say $5 for 30 minutes for youth and $10 for adults. Just make sure they sign a waiver first.
Go to your Chamber of Commerce and see if they will help. Most small towns are hungry for tourism dollars and other ways of increasing community revenue.
Visit local fraternal organizations, like the DAV, Rotary Club, American Cancer Society, etc. Donations of funds and prizes can help garner community interest and support and generate more revenue.
Choose a specific charity to support with any excess funds you might generate, like the Superhero Foundry does with the Semper Fi fund, then ask them for promotional materials, help, whatever. You might be pleasantly surprised at the support you will receive, not least in terms of labor. For instance, have the DAV or Foreign Legion raffle off a set of knives, or hawks or something.
Many knife makers are generous with donated blades for prizes and auctions, just ask around.
We did our first throw in NM with just two target walls, alternating between the two lanes for the championships. For practice and lessons, we had a few cottonwood rounds on tripods. We made portable backboard walls and set up across from the plaza during our city’s annual Socorrofest.
The belly dancers were groovy, but they wouldn’t pose for silhouette throwing.
A fair crowd watched us, though most of the participants were from Talon’s NMT throwing club with the addition of Roger Jals and Clifford Payne, who, of course, are the current NM state record holders in knife and hawk. Cliff and Rog taught lessons until 10 pm, which generated an extra $100 or so.
To build a portable wall, divide it into three equal panels, each with its own frame, which are then bolted together. Add a 10 ft long 2×4 skid on each end of the wall, each skid supported by two more 2x4s, each of those attached to opposite ends of the skid and to the outside top corner of the outside panel frames.
These portable walls work great, can be assembled or disassembled in 30 minutes, can be easily stored in a shed and re-used many times.
Visit your local building supply and/or hardware business, too. The Superhero Foundry had material sponsorship from Home Depot for the US Nationals. Hit one place for lumber, one for hardware, maybe another for paint. Raid the scrap bins at construction sites. Ask for old pallets at loading docks. Beg for culls and bitter ends at wood yards.
Lumber is a huge expense. $1200-$1500 worth for 5 walls, 15 targets, and two spares.
Go to the high school wood shop and ask if they can help construct targets or if the metal shop can cut out blanks for knifemaking.
You’ll probably recruit a thrower or two in the process.
Or try a machine shop. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Much less expensive to make your own blades from blanks for prizes. Bar stock is cheap. So is child labor.
Accept whatever people are willing to give you. Maybe your local grocer can donate water or energy drinks. Maybe some restaurant can donate gift certificates. You can give out some cool stuff for early registrations or auction off the toaster Bill’s Ace Hardware gave you.
Or you can take two tin pails, spray paint them, then fill them with whatever items have been donated.
There’s your Gold Cup prizes.
Certificates and awards are surprisingly expensive and you’ll need a bunch; more than 30. If you expect fewer than 25 throwers, consider lumping all amateur divisions into just one general amateur division.
For our throw in September, we will ask the local college’s printing office to help us out. They have a community outreach program, of which we hope to take advantage.
Try contacting all local media outlets; tv, radio, newspaper. Monster Energy saw a news piece about the Vegas event and showed up with cases and cases of energy drinks, then took pictures of us drinking their products.
That’s all it took. And that’s what it takes to grow a sport.
Our local paper has done a story or two about us and I’ve been interviewed on the radio twice. It’s not much, but more people talk to me in town now than they ever did before.
Or maybe that’s because I’m so darn good looking.
Resources are out there. Just be creative and don’t be shy about asking for what you need. Or want.
And be a bro. Share effective ideas with other event organizers.
Cottonwood Bob thinks we could do a combined throw with the Full Tang Clan and others via live, IKTHOF board member moderated broadcasts on any of a dozen live streaming services. Might be worth a test run.
Not sure how that would fly with some folks, but I like it. We could form a league.
What say you, Average Joe Thrower?
Well… Good luck to all you competitive throwers and backyard range rats. May your aim always be as true as your motive.
See you around,