The inaugural Third Shot’s a Charm Pickleball Festival is underway at World’s Gym in Merriam. About 140 participants from 22 states and four countries are taking the sport by storm in the three-day event this weekend.
The idea for the festival was tossed around in the Facebook Pickleball Forum, which is about 11,500 members strong, and Aspen Kern of Palm Desert, California quickly took action to make it a reality.
“Merriam is centrally located, right in the middle of the U.S.,” Kern said.
Pickleball combines many elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong and can be played indoors or outdoors.
“There’s less wear and tear in pickleball,” Mickey Collins said. “The games are quicker, and it’s new, yet familiar.”
The Lenexa resident helped organize the festival and offered up Merriam as a great location with plenty of courts. If there’s one thing all pickleball players agree on, is it’s a social sport that connects players from all over the world.
Nita and Russell Saulon traveled to Merriam from Minneapolis. The two have played the sport for a couple of years. Nita said she likes playing outdoors and hits the court at least three days a week.
“It’s fun and inclusive,” Nita said. “Plus, it’s not too hard to pick up.”
That’s something Carol Amos of Fallon, Nevada agrees with. She’s played pickleball for five years.
“I think it’s gaining steam,” Amos said. “It keeps you young and active, both mentally and physically. Plus, it’s gender and age neutral.”
Franklin Sports is sponsoring the event and provided all participants with a bag, new paddle, and balls. Adam Franklin, the company’s third generation representative and avid pickleball player, said the sport is taking off and is a real growth opportunity for his family’s company.
“It’s addictive, social, fun, and competitive,” Franklin said.
Franklin said the Facebook Pickleball Forum is the “heartbeat of the sport” and is glad members chose Merriam to play this weekend.
“Merriam is the best host city that anyone could wish for,” Collins said. “The Visitors Bureau staff was instrumental in pulling this off. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
“Working with organizers to pull this event off has been so much fun,” said Karen Crane, Merriam Visitors Bureau director. “Everyone is so excited to meet up and play together.”
And, “it’s wicked fun,” said Tammy Burke of Fallon, Nevada.
Carol Amos and Tammy Burke