Aberdeen pickleball players help raise funds for Dacotah Prairie Museum

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 5:57 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Hub City pickleball players will make history by helping to create the first annual Dacotah Prairie Museum ‘Pickle on the Prairie’ tournament.

When Dacotah Prairie Museum Director Patricia Kendall needed a fundraising event, she wanted it to be unique.

”The idea for a pickleball tournament came to me when I was trying to think of some fun fundraising activities. Everybody does a golf tournament, everybody does a gala or a banquet, and those are great events and they really work for those organizations, but I wanted to stand out a little bit,” said Kendall.

So, she reached out to local pickleball enthusiasts to help. Mark Zerr has been playing since 2016, and said the pickleball community was happy to help showcase their favorite pastime.

“This is really the first big tournament where we got the word out there that pickleball is here in Aberdeen,” said Zerr.

The Pickle on the Prairie will be a round-robin style tournament on June 9th. There are nearly 60 players of all skill levels already registered, but Kendall says anyone can come try out the game on an exhibition court.

”One of our courts is going to be for exhibition, or too, if you’re pickle-curious so that you can try it. We’ll have somebody here to show you how, and that’ll be $10,” said Kendall.

The event is open to spectators, and a bake sale and raffle drawing will also take place. The funds will benefit both the museum and a cause chosen by the pickleball community.

“The majority of the funds that we raise are going to go toward our Children’s Exhibit remodel this year, and the pickleball people, they wanted to take some of those funds that we raise and give them to the Strong Kids Campaign at the Aberdeen Y,” said Kendall.

Sponsors have also played key roles in creating the first pickleball tournament in Aberdeen. Subway provided lunch, Geffdog helped with apparel and 3M provided the tape for the court outlines. The Brown County Fair staff also helped by providing the venue, which will be the Holum Expo Building.

Although the sport was created in 1965, Zerr said pickleball first came to Aberdeen around 2014 when a professional player came to town.

Since then, courts have been built at Manor Park, the YMCA, Matchbox Sport Recreation Center, Washington Street Gym and even Bethlehem Lutheran Church. This helped create a large pickleball community.

“It really took off with the senior group playing in the mornings, but as people saw the sport being played, more and more young people are getting into it. The sport has just exploded because almost anybody can play it. We probably have 75 active players, and if you’re including all the players that play, well above 100,” said Zerr.

The pickleball players in Aberdeen hope to one day form an official club. For now, they’re working on recruiting more players, although they do have to explain the story behind the pickleball name often.

”Everybody is confused by that funny name: pickleball. It’s a sweet sport with a sour name,” said Zerr.