A few weeks ago I posted about the Houston Sword Sports Brash Invitational – a 21 & up tournament in a brewery, with beer for prizes. We pulled it off, and it went great! These types of events are a great way to build recreational fencing and bring the community together, and I want to encourage more clubs to try holding them.
One of our fencers was talking to someone at the national office recently and they wondered why these things aren’t more common, and how to encourage them. For us, it was just about having the idea in the first place. It was pretty easy to organize once we knew what we wanted to do.
Now, we didn’t come up with the idea. The Galveston and Clear Lake fencing clubs, also in the Gulf Coast division, have been running a tournament at a winery for several years (they just held the fifth). Last year, they added a tournament at a rum/tequila/vodka distillery. Both of these events were small, one-weapon tournaments for fencers over 21 and were capped at 16 participants. In both cases the venues were small, so there were two (short) strips.
Last year I was in one of Houston’s many fantastic microbreweries and thought to ask if they would be willing to host a tournament. It didn’t work out with that one, but through some contacts we got in touch with the owner of Brash Brewing. They have a large warehouse where they regularly host concerts, so we were able to expand beyond our original vision (a foil tournament to complement the other two) and host a three-weapon tournament. They didn’t charge us to use the space, and stayed open to the public. It is an un-airconditioned warehouse and got pretty warm as the day wore on, but it was a great size. We had six strips but could have done eight easily (not that we needed them); our strips were a little short but we could’ve made them full-length if we wanted to.
Davis and Carlos in the epee gold medal bout; you can see our audience and the bar in the background.
We have a club member who’s a fantastic artist, who designed a shirt for us to sell at the event. We went with a local screenprinting company, Bayou City Shirts, and everything on their end went really quickly and smoothly. We were a little too conservative with our preorders and sold out of all sizes except small, so next year we’ll order more shirts. The shirts ended up saving us in terms of the profitability of the tournament – most of the money we made went to pay for beer and food, so the profits from the shirts were a good cushion.
One of our club members works for a company that has a community service program, and she got us listed as an option for that, so we had some volunteers to help with the non-reffing aspects of running a tournament. They set up and tore down strips, one guy did equipment control, and another guy ran the tournament computer for most of the day. We had more helpers than we needed, but they had a good time and a lot of stuff ran really smoothly because they were around.
Well, most of the volunteers had a good time. Some found the whole thing a little confusing.
We had all three events capped at 16 participants. Epee filled up fast so we raised the cap to 24. We had 22 preregister for epee, 12 for foil and 14 for saber, but we had a lot of no-shows so epee was 17 and foil and saber were both at 10. These were good sizes, and we kept the events moving along pretty well in spite of a number of fencers doing multiple events.
Once someone was eliminated from all their events, they came to the bout committee for a ticket that they could use at the bar to get a beer. Multiple events = multiple tickets. We had a running (enormous) tab and this helped us make sure people got the right number of beers and helped the bartenders know which beers to put on our tab.
Carlos with his two beery prizes (for second place) and one post-tournament beer.
As for the fencing, we had a wide variety of fencers – some who’d been fencing for ages and a few who were basically beginners. There were some fencers who were also doing weapons they don’t usually fence, hoping to win the best-overall-result prize. The people who were just there to have a good time did have a good time, and the more serious fencers also got some good bouts in.
The tournament was a blast, but there are a couple things we will do differently next year. We want to have a staff member whose primary job is to talk to the folks who are at the brewery for beer, to explain what’s going on and get email signups for anyone who wants to try fencing. The biggest change is that we definitely want to hold it earlier in the year. The end of April in Houston is just too hot for a semi-outdoor, unairconditioned tournament. We had a few people who had planned on fencing multiple events but as the day wore on it got to be too hot for them. Depending on the time of year, we may also reverse the order of events so that the most-lame’d people are fencing earlier in the day and the epeeists are last, so you shed layers as the temperature warms up.
It was hot. Some people got tired.
We got over 500 amazing pictures from the tournament thanks to club member Kat Kelsch-Tournier. You can view the full album here, but I’ve pulled out a few (dozen) of my favorites below.
Are you a fencer who wants to come to next year’s Brash? Sign up for our mailing list to find out when it’s happening! Are you a club owner who wants to hold your own brewery tournament? Email me at email@example.com if you have any questions, or if you want us to send your tournament info to our list!