A cacophony of hundreds of conversations echoed in the tournament hall of the Ramada Grand Dakota Hotel in Dickinson over the weekend, as patrons, competitors, spectators and tournament officials revelled in drink and cheer at the National Dart Association Regional tournament.
The conversation and laughter at each of the 30 boards competed with those surrounding them, as well as the amplifiers ringing with "Turn the Page," a rock classic by Bob Seger. Each competitor in the eclectic bunch took aim at being crowned "King of the Boards."
"Once you have the stroke mastered, if it's natural and you have respectable hand-eye coordination, it becomes a mental game more than a physical one." Aliesha Brennan of Rozet, Wyo., said. "I like to play mind games with my opponents."
Brennan was one of the nearly 200 competitors in Dickinson over the weekend, which included some legendary players.
"I've been playing darts competitively for the last 32 years," Paul Krenz said. "Started playing when I was 18 and have been an active member on the NDA board for four years."
Krenz, a Winnipeg, Man., native, is the vice president of the National Dart Association and a high-caliber player.
"I'm been running leagues for the last 25 years and fell in love with darts when they put in a lounge close to my home," Krenz said. "I started getting a little better, which makes it more fun, and basically have been active in the sport ever since."
Dart competitors at the professional and amateur levels are known for their sharp aim and colorful nicknames.
Cesar Hurtado's nickname, "Salad," is clearly stitched onto the back of his custom-made competition dart shirt. Although not officially competing in the event, "Salad" wanted to support the sport he loves.
"There are a lot of characters here, but there's no better company," Hurtado said. "Most compete for the fun of it and have other jobs."
The Dickinson tournament attracted some of the best players from across the region who each took aim at becoming the regional champion in a bid to reach the national soft-tip championship held in Las Vegas annually.
The National Dart Association is the official sanctioning body for the sport of soft-tip electronic darting. The emphasis of the trade association is the promotion, recognition and standardization of league play. The NDA is now an international organization with members from eight countries. Over 56,000 players are sanctioned annually, participating in dart leagues run by members in over 10,000 locations worldwide. The NDA hosts the world's largest international soft-tip dart tournament competition in the world.
"We have players from Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska and a team from Canada who are all in the running for winning today," Rachel Kamuda, tournament director for the National Dart Association, said. "We are running a 30-board tournament here today in a level competition. We level all of our divisions so they are fair and lower-tier players can still have a fun time and compete without worrying about being beat by some of the higher-caliber competitors present."
The events over the weekend were sponsored by Arachnid 360, Gaelco Darts, L'wen Gruppe and Phoenix Darts, providing the National Dart Association with the everything from boards and darts to covering costs of renting the tourney hall and cash prizes for winners.
In the mixed triples division, Team Window Lickers won the level 1 division tournament and the $510 dollars in prize money. The North Dakota Open Doubles level 1 winners were Joe Pattee and Steve Romey of Team What's the Point. The North Dakota Open Singles level 1 winner was Mandan resident Randy Roesler who after having missed two darts to clinch a 3-0 sweep, pushed the game into a final match before claiming the title with a near-perfect score.
Honorable local mentions include Chris Dolajak, Greg Armitage, Brandon Aman, Brad Walker, Evan Deichert, Shannon Galster, Max Marsh, Eric Ridl, Kevin Burns, Steve Romey, Neil Hecker, Matt Hecker, Kully Gabel, Dan McCabe, Kurtis Einspahr, Ray Marshall Jr., Jake Porter, Chris Haugen and Rick Olheiser.
For more information about the National Dart Association, or upcoming events, visit NDAdarts.com