Richard and Mackenzie Vivanco | Contributed Photo

It is a common place to hear about father and son in unison when it comes to sports activities, but father and daughter competing as a team and winning a championship? Not often. However, Hemet is always when it comes to such things.

I don’t know what you know about corn-holing or how it came about, but let me educate you who are wandering around in the dark asking, “Whatever on earth is he talking about?”

Don’t feel alone out in the left field. It has only been recently that I discovered it, although I played bean bag as a kid.

There are some disagreements as to where it originated: Ohio, Kentucky or Germany? Outside a college dorm in Miami, Ohio college students were tossing bean bags over a cold can of Natty Light beer as far back as the 1960s. About the same time, it was popular in Kentucky. Myth or reality, a pioneer farmer, Jebediah McGillicuddy played the game known as Baggo with bean bags. After that, the game spread throughout the state. Still, legend has it that members of the Blackhawk Tribe of Illinois created an earlier version, making bags from dried animal bladders, filling them with corn kernels and then off to the games.

Those are Western Hemisphere versions. Europeans believe corn hole had its roots in 1325 Germany when a cabinet maker named Matthias Kuepermann watched children throw stones into a hole in the ground.

In the United States patent records there is a patent for “Parlor Quoits,” which involved an early version of a corn hole board.

No matter the origin, it is currently one of the most popular games in the country and is growing in popularity. It is universally associated with good food, drink, family, friends and a really good time which brings us to the reason for this article.

Richard Vivanco’s brother, Jesse, owns the Wheelhouse Skate Rink on the west end of Florida Avenue in Hemet. About five years ago, Jesse began a corn hole league with a few players, and it grew. There were 21 teams when COVID shut down his business and he limped by. This year he was able to floor 11 teams for a 2021 league. Within the league, there were 4 or 5 girls, among them his niece, Mackenzie Vivanco.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing the Vivancos: Richard, his daughter MacKenzie and Jesse.

Q. To Richard: How long have you been involved with the local corn hole league?

A. I started out from the beginning with my friend Art Mares. We played every single one of the five seasons and had a good time with it. It was something to do. I got Art and out of the house one night a week. After five years, Art came down sick and Mackenzie took over his place. We’ve been playing together as a team ever since. Both of us have improved and here we are at the end of another season.

Q – To Mackenzie: What motivated you to start playing and what do you like about it?

A. Since my dad started to play with Art, I would go down to the rink, watch, and learn how the game worked and how to play it. There were little extra boards on the sidelines, so I would practice with them. If Art was unable to make it one night, I would sub in for him and I enjoyed it. I became better and more competitive. I kept subbing and practicing, so when Art got sick and left the league, it was easy for me to slip into his spot as dad’s partner. The more we played together, the more I liked the game and we did okay. We just kept winning. And winning they did. Father 60, daughter 21 playing as a team won the league championship for 2021. How’s that for May and December. Everyone in the family is athletic in some way.

Q. Jesse Vivanco:

Was it difficult putting together a league this year, following last year’s disaster?

A Yes and no. The pandemic put a strain on recruiting, but the league survived thanks to hard work and cooperation from the year before COVID. We brought in some new players and others came back—some from out of town, but mostly locals. People hear about the tournament from various sources around town and when they come to our bar or the comedy shows. Some just come out to see if the Wheel House is still open. Some sense of normality is returning but we still have a good ways to go before we can consider things “normal.”

Q. What’s the age range of players?

A. Teenagers and up. No limit.

Q. Is Mackenzie the youngest in the league?

A. One of them.

Q. When do you start the next season?

A. After the new year. Meanwhile, there will be some pick-up nights when players can come down and practice.

Q. Are you surprised at Mackenzie being able to take over after Art left the game?

A Not really. She’s always been close with her father. They bowl together; she has a hunting license and goes on hunting trips with Richard. When she was old enough to get a driver’s license, she wanted a jeep just like her fathers; worked and saved and paid for it herself. I doubt anybody in the family would be surprised if Richard decided to board a spaceship to Mars that she would sneak in with him.

When I began this sojourn, I said it is more likely to see father and son doing things together. This episode begs the question. There are many activities that family members of all ages can do together for entertainment. This is an example. So maybe you want to get out and have some fun with family or friends. This is family-oriented and loads of fun. Actually, I might even give it a go myself one night.

Just sayin’ rustystrait@gmail.com

Rusty Strait | Senior Reporter

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