At the Elks Lodge in Kenai last weekend, dozens gathered to compete in the 13th Annual Cabin Fever Reliever Dart Tournament. Organizers said the event is emblematic of a continued effort to build up the local dart community.
Tournament Director Jeff Olson said Saturday that nearly 50 people had competed in a single event the night before. He said the long-running event got its start in Cooper Landing, later moving into Kenai, but that its always been something of a kickoff to the year.
Well over a dozen dart boards were set up in the lodge’s open space on Saturday night — and even more competitors could be seen lining up their throws, pulling darts back out from boards, and recording their points.
There are tournaments “just about every month in the winter,” said Aaron Holland, a long-time dart player, on Saturday. Beyond that, there are regularly scheduled opportunities to play darts at local bars six days of the week.
Olson said that, long ago, darts drew massive crowds of competitors — tournaments would rent out the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex with prize pools as high as $15,000. Those times were long ago, but Olson said in recent years more people have been getting into darts locally. He said the contemporary scene features a lot more, smaller events.
“We get more and more interest, everywhere we play,” Olson said. “We’re trying to build it up.”
Darts, Olson said, is a good opportunity for community recreation and connection — especially in the cold winter months. He said it gets people out of their homes, laughing and competing with one another.
Holland said a driving force in the local dart community is families coming out to participate together. He pointed to a man throwing darts on Saturday who had taught his kids — who were also competing that night.
Olson, similarly, brought his own son Kyle to the sport.
“I shot doubles with my son today. That was awesome,” Olson said. “We played a match today — we started against another father-son couple.”
For those interested in getting involved with darts — even if they haven’t played before — Olson said Saturday sessions, held weekly at 7 p.m. in the Kenai Elks Lodge are the best opportunity. Those nights are a blind draw where people will be partnered with another person with some experience. He said the space at the Elks is “family-oriented,” that people bring their kids, and that play often goes until midnight. Darts can be provided for folks who don’t already have their own set.
“You’re going to get to play and you’re going to get to play with somebody else,” he said. “You’ll get hooked.”
Holland said he got his start in darts at age 13, in a California ice cream parlor. Now he’s 63. He said he’s “not any good at it anymore,” but he still comes out to participate in the community.
“This has always been in my blood,” he said.
For more information about darts on the Central Kenai Peninsula, find “Kenai Dart Association” on Facebook.