Storied Horseshoe Pitching Championship returns to St. George

Alan Francis (right), 21-time World Champion horseshoe pitcher, competes at the 2013 World Horseshoe Championship held in the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, circa July, 2013 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Area Sports Commission, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Beehive state was the site of a horseshoe pitching revival following World War II. Now, for the 15th time, the World Horseshoe Pitching Championships return to Utah, July 17-29, at the Dixie Convention Center.

Highlighted by the return of 21-time world champion Alan Francis, the nearly two-week event will include many of the top horseshoe pitchers in the world, along with a robust amateur field ranging in age from 6 to 92 years old.

Alan Francis (top), 21-time World Champion horseshoe pitcher, greets fans at the 2013 World Horseshoe Championship held at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, July 2013 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Area Sports Commission, St. George News

“Hosting the event for the second time in a four-year span shows what a high-quality host St. George has become, and carries on the tradition of Utah being a great location for the world championships,” said Kevin Lewis, director of the St. George Area Sports Commission. “The response from pitchers has been phenomenal. Those who participated in St. George in 2013 are excited to come back and many of them are planning extended vacations this time so they can take advantage of all the great sites and activities in our area.”

There are 1,041 athletes registered from 47 states and five countries for this month’s event. Utah will supply the most horseshoe pitchers (124), but California (121) and Colorado (67) will bring a significant number of athletes as well.

The economic impact is projected to be between $3 million and $4 million due to approximately 3,000 out-of-town visitors who are staying an average of seven nights at local hotels.

“This event is such a boom to the local economy at a time when many of our residents seek to escape the heat,” Lewis said. “Yet having a top-notch indoor facility like the Dixie Convention Center – which lets us to set up 60 courts – gives us the opportunity to attract a significant event like this.”

No other state has hosted this event as many times as Utah.

Between 1947 and 1966, the championships were held in Murray 13 times – including 11 consecutive years (1949-59). Later, the championships were rotated to new locations each year based on bids from interested host cities. St. George last welcomed the horseshoe-pitching world in 2013, when Francis set a world record by posting ringers on 91.2 percent of his pitches.

Francis, considered by many the greatest horseshoe pitcher of all time, wasn’t the first legend to grace the Beehive state. Between 1947 and 1959, Fernando Isais and Ted Allen captured 12 of the 13 world titles, including six straight from Isais (1947-52).

The sport’s greatest rivalry – only one other horseshoe pitcher laid claim to a championship during the years 1930 and 1959 – helped put horseshoes back on the map after only being held twice between 1936 and 1945 due to the Great Depression and World War II.

Utah quite possibly saved the sport of horseshoe pitching following the war, and our state hosting the event for all those years helped cultivate some of the most renowned legends of horseshoe pitching,” said Lewis. “This is a fun spectator event and is a tremendous complement to the variety of sports the St. George area is known for.”

The event kicks off July 17 with the Golden Ringer VIP Tournament and Opening Ceremonies. The junior pitching championships are set for July 22 and the world championship final rounds will commence July 29 at 10 a.m

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