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'Their favorite place': Dickinson benefits from annual darts tournament

Kayla Munn throws with skill as she gets her first taste of the massive 33rd annual 2019 North Dakota Tournament Association Darts Championships held in Dickinson this weekend. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)

It's 11 a.m. on a Saturday and the air is thick with the smell of beer.

An intoxicating haze seems to permeate the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge, its myriad ballrooms, meeting rooms, dining rooms and hallways overflowing with people, dartboards and beer bottles—all signs of a good time being had at the 33rd annual North Dakota Tournament Association Dart Championships held in Dickinson this past weekend.

"It's huge! The turnout is amazing, just knowing that a lot of people took time out of their careers and days to come to Dickinson, North Dakota, booking up all the hotels—all of the hotels that are around us are booked solid for days," said Dickinson's Kayla Munn, a participant in the event. "It's great for business and it gets us on the map for more than the oilfield."

A multitude of dart teams were dressed in a wide array of uniforms and colors at the event, some bearing a professional and sleek appearance while others wore simple t-shirts with sometimes crass team identifiers. Whether you were a seasoned thrower or just starting out, there was a place for you at this tournament.

"We have divisions," Preston Obrigewitsch, owner of Badlands Music and an operator at this tournament, said. "We go from masters division, which is your best players, then it goes down to—we had an H division last night. We go A, B,C,D ... down to H."

A fresh face to the darts game, Munn is proud to be holding her own at a tournament of this scale. More than 900 participants took part in three days' worth of singles, doubles and triples competition. Munn said she was encouraged by her friends to step her game up after she recently began playing.

"I didn't even know I could throw a dart until this year," she said. "Very proud of myself—turns out I held my own. Hopefully better (results) next year, but this year was very fun ... I can't wait to come back next year."

Repeat participants keep the passion of the tournament alive, and Obrigewitsch said it was seeing familiar faces return year-in and year-out that makes it fun for him.

"It's a huge social event obviously," he said. "You see a lot of repeat players over the course of the years, the friendships you make that way. To see the champions, how excited they are."

Organizing an event this large is a challenge, Obrigewitsch said, saying that there were roughly 960 total participants, with turnout being particularly high this year.

"This is one of the largest ones we've had in Dickinson," He said. "We have 76 boards we've brought in ... we all pull together, each operator takes their own entries ... we just work together. Without the help of all the operators, this wouldn't happen."

The operators work across the state, from Dickinson, Bismarck, Minot, Devils Lake, Jamestown, Williston and Fargo, Obrigewitsch said. Players have to play five nights in their league system to qualify for eligibility for this tournament, he said.

Caring for hundreds of guests and visitors could be a challenge, but Elaine Myran, general manager for the Ramada, said that her experienced staff is up to the task.

"We've got a great team, everybody's great team players," Myran said. "We love having the event here, we know how important it is. The staff understands the importance of this coming to our hotel."

Myran said that the event has proven good for the whole community, providing business to gas stations and liquor stores, as well as restaurants—and the general welfare benefits from lodging tax and sales tax contributions. Myran recalled the words of a vendor who attended this year's tournament.

"(They said) Dickinson is the best host city for them, that the Ramada goes beyond and above—they have (the tournament) in Minot on rotation ... Minot, Williston, Bismarck, this is their favorite place. They love having it here, (because of) the welcome they get from the staff."