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VOL. 126 | NO. 157 | Friday, August 12, 2011

Wifflestock Hits New Level for Ronald McDonald House

By Aisling Maki

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For 14 consecutive years, the parking lot of Midtown bar and restaurant Zinnie’s East played host to Wifflestock, an annual event organized by a league of Wiffle ball enthusiasts to raise money for Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.

Tiger Lane will play host to this year’s Wifflestock.
(Memphis Daily News File Photo)

The event centered around 25 to 30 teams competing for the city’s Wifflestock Championship title and featured live music, food, drinks and fanfare.

And over the years, it raised more than $60,000 for Ronald McDonald House, a home-away-from-home for children and families of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Last year’s tournament alone raised about $17,000.

“I know that those guys love the Ronald McDonald House, and they love raising money for us, and we love that,” said Keaton Frick, special events coordinator for Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. “We count on them every year for our operating budget, and every year they surprise us with more and more money. We really can’t thank them enough.”

But when Zinnie’s East closed its doors for good in February, organizers began looking for a new home for both the league and for the event.

“We were really worried,” said organizer Johnny Jackson. “We have a league that plays each week, so we didn’t know where the league was going to go and what we were going to do with Wifflestock, either.”

While the Wiffle ball league moved its practices to the parking lot behind Kudzu’s Bar and Grill at 603 Monroe Ave., Wifflestock has found a new home at Tiger Lane, the 7-acre tailgating green space near Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Larry Smith, who runs the Liberty Bowl, was very helpful, and Councilman Shea Flinn set up the meeting,” Jackson said. “We just wanted to go for the best thing we could get, so we called them and they said it was OK. It’s a great place for a Wiffle ball tournament.”

The 15th Annual Wifflestock, which promises “Two Days of Peace, Love and Wiffle,” takes place from noon to midnight Aug. 20 and Aug. 21 at Tiger Lane.

So far, 25 teams have registered, and Jackson said he hopes that number will double before the Aug. 16 registration deadline.

“We don’t run the bases, so you don’t have to play as much defense; it’s basically hitting and pitching,” he said. “We’ve simplified baseball.”

In addition to scoring Tiger Lane, this year’s Wifflestock has also garnered live performances from more than a dozen local acts playing on a main stage donated by Budweiser of Memphis, including Brian Sharp, Clanky’s Nub, Good Luck Dark Star, Freeworld, Jeremy Stanfill and the Subteens.

Food vendors include Central BBQ, Tucker’s, Pig-N-Whistle and Hooter’s, as well as margaritas from Café Ole, beer from event sponsor Fat Tire, and frozen sweet treats for the kids.

Hicks Convention Services of Memphis has donated a water slide and carnival games for children, as well as a dunk tank to be manned by CBS Sports college basketball columnist Gary Parrish.

Jackson said University of Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner plans to make an appearance at the event.

Festivities will also include a hula-hoop marathon, home run derby, hot dog-eating contest, silent auction and a raffle that includes gift certificates from local restaurants and a basketball autographed by the Memphis Grizzlies team.

“From what I can tell, they’re so excited about Tiger Lane,” Frick said. “They have more teams, more space and more vendors, which will inevitably make the event bigger, thus providing more funds for the Ronald McDonald House. They’ve been great. The guys putting it on have been there since the beginning.”

All items have been donated, and Jackson said every penny spent, “every burger they buy, every beer or soda – is all going to benefit Ronald McDonald House. The beauty of this event is that various people have said, ‘I can do this for you,’ and everyone does their little part, and it all comes together to create a big event.”

Admission and parking for Wifflestock 2011 are free. The entry fee for the tournament is $25 per player, and registration continues through Aug.16 at the Blue Monkey and Kudzu’s, or by visiting www.freewebs.com/wifflestock.

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