The Finishers, from Langley, made 12 straight appearances at the Armstrong portion of the Funtastic Slo-Pitch Tournament. For the first time in 28 years, there are no games in Armstrong this weekend due to a lack of registered teams. (Photo submitted)

Armstrong Funtastic streak ends

After 28 straight years, there are no Funtastic games in Armstrong this weekend due to lack of teams

The Finishers started it.

The Langley softball team had so much fun at the Armstrong portion of the Funtastic Slo-Pitch tournament they brought more Langley teams like Git R Dun and Playing The Field with them.

So you can understand why longtime Finisher Sam Wolters was upset to hear that, for the first time in 29 years, there will be no games in Armstrong this long weekend due to a lack of registered teams.

“We’ve come the last 12 years,” said Wolters, whose team included her husband, four kids, their spouses and other friends. “We did Vernon the first year but we are a family team and we heard great things about Armstrong. We loved the fact that you parked your camper (at the IPE grounds) and walked everywhere.

“You walked to your game; you walked to Askew’s. You walked to the best bakery inside Askew’s (Country Bakery) where we bought them out of cinnamon bread every day.”

The Finishers even had a wedding in Armstrong during Funtastic.

“That was Dave and Deb, a couple that came with us,” said Wolters. “It was their choice. They got married on Diamond 1. The (Armstrong Spallumcheen) chamber was fantastic. Patti (Noonan), Carol (Hill-Lonergan), Mayor Chris (Pieper), Fran (Stecyk, from local organizing committee), everybody was great to us.”

As of March, Armstrong Funtastic organizers had eight teams committed, and the deadline for teams to pay and register has generally been April 1.

Fran Stecyk, a 10-year Armstrong committee member, said numbers have been diminishing for a number of years.

“We’ve had 44 teams, that was our largest, but the maximum we could have camping was 32,” said Stecyk, who played in the tournament as well. “Camping numbers kept dropping and dropping, and we just know ballplayers, in general, have aged out and the younger generation hasn’t stepped in to replenish the retiring ballplayers.”

Without the registrations, said Stecyk, the tournament couldn’t proceed in Armstrong.

“We can’t run a tournament with eight teams,” she said. “It’s not fair to the food vendors or the organizers of the beer garden. We’d be setting them up for a (financial) loss.”

Local teams enjoyed the chance to play the out-of-town squads over the Canada Day weekend, either at the two diamonds at the IPE grounds, or the fields at Len Wood Middle School.

Linet Keir, a longtime member of Armstrong’s S&P Strongarms, first got onto a team through daycare parents 15 years ago, and never missed a tournament.

“It absolutely sucks,” said Keir of the Armstrong cancellation. “It was something I looked forward to every year. It was great. The teams kept coming back, everybody knew everybody, and it was fun, good friendly rivalries.

“The whole fairgrounds were a big ring with a game played right in the middle.”

Funtastic will carry on this year in Vernon, with 200+ teams, and in Enderby, with 32 squads. Keir will go to Enderby to watch some games.

Wolters and family are still coming to Armstrong. Her oldest son lives there with his wife, and another child is moving this holiday weekend to Vernon.

“We’ll still participate in the Canada Day activities in Armstrong,” said Wolters.

Asked if perhaps there could just be a one-year hiatus from the tournament, Stecyk said: “that would be nice.”

“But we need the commitment,” she said.

Through its 28-year involvement, Armstrong Funtastic has raised and donated money to many local charitable organizations.

Funtastic games in Vernon and Enderby start tonight, and carry on through the weekend, finishing on Monday.

There will be a Celebrity Softball Game Saturday at 2:45 p.m. at DND 5 in Vernon. Scheduled to take part are Vernon Vipers head coach Mark Ferner; former NHL stars Dean McAmmond and Sandy Moger; ultramarathon sensation Shanda Hill; former Salmon Arm Silverbacks general manager Troy Mick; seven-time B.C. men’s curling champion Jim Cotter and Morning Star sports editor Kevin Mitchell.

Proceeds from the game go toward programs at North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society.

On Sunday, the Funtastic Home Run Derby will take place at noon, also at DND 5. Proceeds from that event go toward KidSport Vernon.

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