The Great Bend Recreation Center hosted Kids Day Out Thursday and Friday, December 27 and 28. The two-day camp offers kids ages six to 12 a break after several days home from school during winter break. The kids played games, made crafts, decorated cookies and had snacks, watched movies and went bowling.
Friday after lunch, children boarded the bus for the short trip from the Rec Center to the Walnut Bowl and Mini-Golf center in Great Bend. Nathan Brungardt, one of the leaders, was on hand to help make sure everyone received the right size shoes and helped find just the right ball.
“Most of the kids know how to play,” he said. “We help teach the ones who don’t, so everyone has a good time.” With such a wide variety of ages and skill levels playing, lane bumpers helped keep the fun factor high too, he said. Those skill levels range from bowlers that release the ball with finesse, the ball rarely hitting the bumpers, to those who walk to the foul line and loft the ball, hardly wincing as the 10 to 12 pound sphere of acryllic slams onto the hardwood of the lane. Others timidly scoot up, sit and push the ball into the lane, allowing the pin-ball like momentum of the bumpers to propel the creeper slowly down the lane to knock the pins down. Whatever their style, the smiles on their face is the telling factor that they are having a good time.
The lanes are no worse for the wear despite the pounding they take.
“Alot of the kids aren’t trained, and their just having fun,” said Jim Mayberry, owner of the Walnut Bowl. Step past the foul line, and right away, the surface becomes slick. That’s not wax, Mayberry said. It’s lane oil, the consistency of salad oil. It helps protect the lane from the balls that hit it.
“It also allows you to manipulate the shot for scoring, either up or down,” he said.
Mayberry has owned the bowling alley since 1996. In 16 years, he’s seen peaks and valleys in the business, mostly due to economic forces. The holidays are his peak time.
“The colder and wetter the better,” he said.
Mayberry said leagues bowl every day but Sunday, and several of the kids at the Kids Day Out program are also involved in youth league bowling.
League bowling, as a whole, is on the decline he said. But open bowling, cosmic bowling, birthday and corporate parties and class reunions are on the rise. Still, bowling is very much league based, and he’s experimenting with some new ideas to encourage people to come back to league bowling. Every other week and once a month leagues are helping to bring busy people back into the sport. The trend is driven by a need to balance the sheer business of life with the need for a diversion that combines social and physical aspects--something lacking in today’s electronics driven world.
Mayberry teaches bowling classes through Barton Coummunity College, both beginner and advanced, as well as acting as the assistant coach of the high school bowling team and coaches the youth league. Whether he’s working with adults of kids, sharing the sport of bowling gives him a deep sense of personal satisfaction.
“It’s great to see these kids come out here and have a great time, bottom line,” he said.