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Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Hauck’s Handy Store and the name of Lynn Hauck Hite.
Salt and pepper hair and brightly colored lawn chairs lined the streets surrounding Hauck’s Handy Store on Monday evening, as those 45 years and older signed up to compete in the annual World Championship Dainty Contest.
Using a 3-foot broom handle, competitors try to pop up and hit the small wooden peg. They get three shots to try to hit it as far down George Hauck Way as they can.
The street game was created by German immigrants in the 1800s. It was brought to Schnitzelburg in 1971 by George Hauck, who created the game to bring the community closer together. And proceeds go to the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Old swing tunes spread around the streets. Standing under the Hauck’s Handy Store sign, Lynn Hauck Hite, George Hauck’s daughter, runs around gathering beer tickets selling icy drinks from the storefront.
“It always meant a lot to dad and all of us,” she said.
Hauck, 98, was unable to make the event this year. However, his daughter, Lynn, and other Dainty veterans are continuing the tradition.
Gary Allen wears a neon yellow T-shirt and clutches a microphone in his hand. The 66-year-old has been organizing the event for 13 years.
When he began, there were nearly 300 people in attendance. Today the event has grown to close to 500.
One of those attendees is Mike McDermott, 39. He sits in a lawn chair along the side of the road with his mother, Pat.
Watching participants prepare, he smiles.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” McDermott said.
McDermott has been coming to the event for nearly 30 years now. It’s a tradition for him. He’s seen people who are freshly 45 and 80-year-olds participate in some friendly competition.
Sister Michele and Mary Schmidt laugh as excitement amongst watchers grows. Sister Michele lives in the area and has been coming to the event for five years.
“There’s nothing like this,” she said, lips spreading into a grin.
As drops of rain begin to splatter amongst the crowd, attendees pull out umbrellas and pull up hoods, unfazed by the weather.
Old friends, local dignitaries and young onlookers hug and laugh as one by one players strike out. They cheer as a sudden hit sends a peg flying through the air.
Gary Allen speaks into the mic, calling contestants up, one more excited than the next.
“Every year someone says I can’t wait to be 45,” he said.