9:00 a.m.

We step from the cozy interior of the "Kubb'd" mini-van into the crisp Minnesotan air. It's not a normal Minnesota February; its 28 degrees and an expected high above freezing. When you arrive an hour early, you get a decent parking spot, so instead of a 3 mile walk we only had a 1 mile jaunt to the kubb pitches. Unsure if they are going the right way, I hang back just in case we end up needing to turn around. We find some railroad tracks, and we can hear the whirring of a power-drill making corner pin holes in the permafrost and the clicking of hammers on corner pins. It felt like something out of Stand By Me following the tracks down to the secret entrance, and I was still hanging back, thinking "Why didn't we just take the shuttle?" It didn't take long to find the entrance, which was a carpeted trail in hopes of keeping people on their feet. The whirring and clinking was getting closer.

Eric Goplin welcomed us to the frozen battlefields. Grant and Chris, representing Des Moines as Los Padres were keen to note that we should setup near the beer tent. Steve and myself, (representing the club as Team Fjardrar (FUH-JUH-AR_DRAWER-DAR-DUR) decided that made sense. We bust out the chairs, and watched as Chris helped with setup, mocking his good-nature to counteract our laziness. About 9:30 the usual suspects started showing up and getting their practice in. Steve and I practiced initial baton throws for 15 minutes (we were not sure who was going to do this), as Grant and Chris honed in their long game. There was no need to practice drills on the hard ground; it would of just made us depressed.

After a quick pow-wow from Eric Goplin, pitch assignments were released and games began. There was a TON of new Minnesota teams at this tournament, and even more new players. And they were really darn good.They had been practicing on hard ground, and the majority of them had the "Minnesota Kubb-Slide" down. The tournament was lively, fun, and enjoyable. After every game, win or lose, the two teams ended up talking over a fallen king for a while, getting to know them, talking kubb and life, then wishing the other team luck as they line up their next game. It was by far the friendliest of the tournaments I have been to. Someone said it's called "Minnesota Nice".

With the groups completed the pack was split to consolation and championship brackets. Team Fjardrar squeaked into the championships with a 2-1 record in group play. Los Padres got a higher seed with a commanding 3-0 in their group. Out of the gate, we have to meet the Wolfpack, which is looking pretty grim for us, but on any given kubb-day any given team can win, and we were sniping 8m full throttle that game. Los Padres also had a hard team in Swedish Bikini Team. They managed to win their series with good kubb groups (see pic) and faced an even tougher opponent; the 2010 US National Champions, Aaron and Dave Ellringer. There is something about The Ringers that makes you not want to play them. They are a solid team; not streaky, and mentally tough. Even when they slip and throw off-balance they hit 5 (true story). But Los Padres came out of the gate on 2 games with 3+ baselines down. That initial attack can finish a game before it begins, and Los Padres did just that.

(The Swedish Bikini Team stares at a pile of wood thrown by Chris Hodges of team Los Padres.)

Team Fjardar got the easier draw in our initial opinion. We didn't have to bring down a powerhouse team, but nothing was known about 2 Pump Chumps. Now we know. They have got what it takes to compete very stong on the kubb circuit, and I'm hoping they can make it to some road games. Short game, long game, and a team that gets better with every drink. Team Fjardrar missed 3 king shots in the match, and it ended up taking us out in the final 8. We took them to a 3rd game, which ties us for 5th on the day.

THE FINALS, and the beauty of dusk.
We move all our stuff up to the finish line of the sking track. 1,000's of gallon size ice luminaries dotted the landscape. Every 30 feet was a bonfire. The finals pitches were played on 3 feet of packed snow under the lights, and as many spectators as Finals at Nationals. This was a good night for kubb. Over 100 people watched at least some portion of the finals, most of them being new to the game. Thousands more walked by; stopped for a second, asked "What is the name of that game?", then continued on the luminary walking trail. Walkers of the luminary loppet wore glow sticks of varying colors, making a stream of light that encircled the entire park, and the kubb tournament. I would guess that the finals were the most spectated kubb tournament in the world.

As the weather chilled down, the intensity on the pitches heated up. Kubb Snipers beat Sweden Sons and 2 Pump Chumps took down Los Padres. The game for first place was intense, but the rhythmic drills of Chad Bevers, and the accuracy of Chad Parsons kept the Snipers in every game. 2 Pump Chumps lost in the end, but won the award for highest placed team to beer ratio.

1st - Kubb Snipers (Appleton, WI)
2nd - 2 Pump Chumps (Minneapolis, MN)
3rd - Sweden Sons (Eau Claire/Chippewa Valley, WI)
4th - Los Padres (Des Moines, IA)

9:00 p.m. (12 hours later)

Feet and fingers frozen, the 4 DMK'ers head back the way we came in, stopping to get pics of the Ice Pyramid, before leaving the party, which had just started for many folks. We had a 3.5 hour trip ahead of us. Perhaps next time we can stay.....