The Frisbee team is back
By BRITTANY DEVRIES
Lazlo’s Weenie World may not mean very much to most people, but there are a group of frisbee players who see it as the core of their lives.
Hugh Lowry, ’77 alum, and his wife, Mary, is in charge of Lazlos, a one weekend a year restaurant that materializes beneath a picnic shelter at Pratt Park in Fredericksburg to nourish and hydrate a slew of World Champion Frisbee players competing in the little known but well-loved VA State Frisbee Championships.
What started as a pick-up game at the University of Mary Washington developed into the nationally recognized VA state tournament that it has become, all because of a few guy friends throwing frisbees back in the 70s.
Lowry used to hang a bag of frisbees on the tree at Ball Circle so he and his friends could throw them around between classes.
“This was a time when we thought throwing a frisbee 300 feet was pretty damn good,” Lowry said. “Now the record holder for distance, who is here, throws over 200 meters. We couldn’t possibly have done that on campus.”
Lowry’s team mate from thirty years ago, Presbyterian Minister Randy Corbin, mentioned the relationships that grew out of the pick up games at Ball Circle, a theme that persisted through the voice of every person at the Tournament this past weekend.
“I don’t think anyone ever envisioned we’d be doing this thirty-three years later,” Corbin said.
Then, Corbin, ’79, lived in Madison Hall, the only male freshman residence hall, his freshman year. He could see Lowry and his friends playing out on Ball, and decided to join them. He later became the club president in ’77.
In ’76, the games turned into a club, a team named the Mothers, with the help of then late professor of economics John Pickerill, who acted as their adviser.
“He’d come out when we were playing and showed us different games,” Lowry said. “[Pickerill] thought it would be good to have an overall tournament.”
Pickerill later left his teaching career to work full-time with his disk dog Martha Faye, a black Labrador who jumped high enough and ran fast enough to win World Champion canine Frisbee titles. Eric Olson ‘82, who has been the tournament director for 22 years, explained that the Mothers were named after Mary Washington, the mother of the father of the country.
Olson said that Pickerill deserved credit for his efforts in starting and inspiring the club.
“Lowry was the founder, but Pickerill was really the one to inspire us,” Olson said.
As the games got more popular, the guys developed a disc golf course around the campus grounds, applied to the International Frisbee Association through the original Frisbee brand Whammo, and by 1977 Mary Washington was host for the Virginia State Championships.
“Playing on campus was like heaven on earth,” Wootten said.
They tried for four events, and about 67 people competed in the first tournament in ’77.
“We have people from Oregon, New York, California, and Michigan, from all over,” Lowry said.
Duke Stableford, ’81, remembered how he and his friends used to slow up their game a little around one of the holes behind Russell Hall, where female students were often laying on the grass to enjoy the sun.
“We used to have a tea off pad from the patio of Randolph Hall to a lamppost down just past Russell,” Stableford, who has been to 31 tournaments, said. “It was the most popular of tee pads by mid April”
That evening, Olson and Wootten also admitted to their favorite hole being the one behind Russell Hall.
“It was covered in sunbathing co-eds,” Olson said.
“There weren’t any cell phone exchanges at that time,” Wootten said humorously.
Stableford mentioned that the Frisbee players used to hold large Saturday night parties in the basement of Seacobeck Hall, making it a point to invite the girls to what he recalled as a “toxic waste with a live band.”
Olson described the scene.
“The legal age was 18 so everyone on campus could drink and it was not that big of a deal,” he said. “They had keg parties in the ballroom, with a lot of Marines and people. When they shut down the ballroom, it was moved to the Seacobeck basement. It was a great time. We used to have 20 or 30 kegs at the party. A great mix of people.”
Stableford gave the basement another perspective.
“Think about it, a bunch of buff, young, half-naked guys playing around on Ball Circle would bring out all the young ladies,” he said. “We’ll stop there. It was many, many nights of debauchery.”
Laurie Daniels, ’84, didn’t get involved with Frisbee through their parties.
“I was a freshman, and I was sitting in front of my dorm at Mason reading my English book. A frisbee goes flying past me with no receiver, no thrower. And then another one, and another one. What I didn’t realize was that right in front of my dorm was a frisbee golf course and they were heading toward the fountain, and the tee-off was around the corner.”
One of the guys told her that it was the Va State Frisbee Championships, and they were held on campus every year since the Spring of 1977.
Later, on her way to Seacobeck Hall, Daniels ran into players like Eric Wootten,’81, while he was freestyling with a Frisbee.
“He taught me how to do it,” she said. “He fed me the disc, fed me the disc, fed me the disc, and got me to do a couple moves.”
In one year, Daniels started playing ultimate, was one of two women to play on the Fredericksburg Mothers team, learned disc golf, and learned how to belay and freestyle.
“I majored in Psychology and Frisbee, that’s what ended up happening,” Daniels said. “And I still use both.”
Daniels, who received a World Champion title in ‘03 for Women’s Double Disk Competition and was named World’s Women’s Master’s overall in ’04, always comes back to the tournament.
Eric Wootten, ’81, another key founder alongside Lowry, could see the guys playing on Ball from his room in Madison Hall.
“It was beautiful,” Wootten said. “It’s the flight of the disc that brings people to this sport.”
Playing nonstop, Wootten ended up qualifying for the world Frisbee Championship during his junior year.
Wootten, who has been attending the Va. tournament for the 33 years, it has been in effect, said that the event is the same as ever.
“It hasn’t changed, other than people throwing further,” he said. “It’s a time warp.”
Wootten and his wife Bonnie, an ’81 graduate as well, qualified for Nationals on a pairs team. Their son, Hunter, went to Ithaca for the World Frisbee Disc Foundation in 2007.
“It’s part of the fabric of our family, this tournament,” Wootten said.
Corbin commented that while Wootten was club president in ‘78, he managed to receive money from the University.
That was about as much support as they received, and the administration’s difficulties with the campus tournaments eventually led to the club’s dismissal from campus.
Stableford explained how part of the reason there were complaints was that the Frisbee started changing, which started becoming heavier and harder in the early 80’s.
“As disc became more beveled, it began to hurt when you got hit,” Stableford said. “Around ‘81 or ‘82, the administration started having problems.
For the Frisbee club’s first campus fundraiser, they used to buy reject discs for 50 cents, and sell them to students for $1.
Midnight Flyers, a new frisbee that came out in the late 70s that could glow in the dark when activated, began a whole new way of playing Frisbee.
“When Midnight Flyers came out, you could go out on a Friday or Saturday night around midnight or 1 a.m. and play night golf,” Stableford said. “You’d hold the Frisbee up to the light posts to play the next hole.”
Stableford said that President Prince B. Woodard eventually banned Frisbee on campus. “So if you wanted to play, you had to do it secretly, as an act of civil disobedience,” he said. Wootten, who said that the targets were light posts, recalled one night while he and his friends were playing late-night Frisbee golf with the Flyer Frisbee.
“I could hear the cop’s keys,” Wootten said. “Then suddenly he was there with his gun drawn. I told him, ‘Hey, we’re just playing Frisbee, you know?’” Wootten said that it was the late night games that put the Frisbee club on bad terms with the administration. The tournament was moved to Old Mill Park in ’82 and ‘83, and eventually found its home at Pratt Park in 1984.
Mike Trapassasso, a Fredericksburg resident who owns 64 private acres of disc golf courses, helps organize the music and stage for the weekend. “It’s a blast” he said of the tournament. Daniels agreed. “I love this tournament,” she said. “It’s the people who make this event, it’s the personalities that are here that bleed through into the events.”
Olsen summed up the vibe, the emotions, and the love that has maintained the VA State Frisbee Tournament for 33 years. “In the end what it is, is, we got that combination of, you know, the history of the game, we’ve kept it consistent with what it at its beginning, and we’ve got that great frisbee vibe going, and that’s what keeps bringing people back,” he said. “Once they start going, they just keep coming.”