Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shuffleboard is part of Bradenton's heritage

Who would have predicted the Herald's "Living Here" special section would propel me to the Bradenton Shuffleboard Club?

I certainly had no premonition, but as soon as I got Sue Daidone's call, my destination was made clear.

We had failed to even mention shuffleboard in Living Here, much less include that "the finest courts in Florida are in Manatee County," as Sue pointed out. And she wanted to give me a tour of her "home away from home" in the heart of downtown Bradenton, where 37 courts sit gleaming along Ballard Park Drive.

I hadn't visited since the courts were saved from the city's wrecking ball in 2006. The city still owns the courts, but they have been renovated and reborn with a lot of TLC and a lot of donations from its members. The scoreboards were donated; the tables and chairs inside the mess hall were donated; the gleaming glass beads on its 37 courts are from their dues...

On Monday, 57 teams from all over Florida began competing in the state regionals. As Sue and her husband Chuck noted, shuffleboard is an economic boost here. And it caters to both boomers and our older demographics -- members range from their early 50s into their 90s.

"This is the sport when you get older -- and anybody can play, regardless of medical challenges," Sue said as she proudly took me through the ranks.

Chuck noted that he's legally blind -- and he still can play a mean game. He uses a golf scope to navigate the court.

They want to get the word out that, for only a $15-a-year membership fee, your mornings can be filled with shuffleboard strategy and fabulous camaraderie. Just call 941-747-6184 for details.

The Herald has published John Brown's shuffleboard column every other week for years -- a welcome addition during season, which runs October through March. After meeting with so many of our Bradenton shufflers, I hope to add their photos, maybe a blog, certainly their insights. Here's to John's classic closing signature:

Happy shuffling!

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