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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane’s first (hopefully) annual pickleball tournament open to all players: ‘It’s pretty special to be here’

By Alexandria Osborne The Spokesman-Review

The city’s first PickleFest – a five-day open pickleball tournament – is being played on temporary courts under the U.S. Pavilion in the heart of Riverfront Park.

Mike Johansen, the organizer and Spokane Pickleball Club president, said the city reached out to the club when it was new and said they wanted a pickleball event.

So the club’s board worked with the City Parks Department to get the event going, as well as sponsors to receive nets and tournament support gifts for volunteers and participants.

“It’s our first event as a brand-new nonprofit,” Johansen said. “It’s been great. People are excited to play.”

A jamboree portion of the event, which includes open play, is free for anybody to participate, he said. There is a $45 fee for the tournament this weekend; slots for the tournament have been filled, but community members are encouraged to watch.

Johansen said the goal of PickleFest is to attract people who have not played the 15-minute games.

Pickleball coach Rose Jones has been a longtime tennis coach but picked up pickleball a few years ago. She received her pickleball certification and began coaching in 2019.

At PickleFest, Jones has the opportunity to teach participants the rules of the game and show them how to play.

Jones said she calls her program the Joy of Pickleball, and when she teaches, she writes the word ‘joy’ on the ball to remind herself the game is about joy, friendship and community.

“Sure, you’re going to get a good amount of exercise, but it’s the friendship and the camaraderie that I think is the most important part of pickleball,” she said. “It should be joy that pickleball brings you.”

Selkirk Sport, a manufacturing company based in Hayden is one of the sponsors for PickleFest.

Selkirk Project Manager Jase Edwards said the company is the largest pickleball manufacturing company and helped provide the nets and some of the balls.

“We really wanted to help empower this event to help grow pickleball in the community,” Edwards said. “We love the sport, and we’re seeing that a lot of people love it too, so an opportunity like this to play in the Pavilion and help empower the event, we jumped all over it.”

Edwards said he has enjoyed being able to watch the open play and see people from the community, throughout Spokane and surrounding areas, come together to meet and play the game.

“There’s a lot more diversity in the sport than I even thought, so it’s really cool,” he said.

Carson Layden showed up for open play on the first day of the event and continued to come back to participate because he enjoys playing pickleball.

PickleFest is the first pickleball event in the area that is open to the public and not exclusive.

Layden said he was drawn to the idea that community members could just show up to play and have fun, and the environment has been welcoming for him.

“Everyone’s super nice, and it’s good competition,” he said.

He said everyone he interacted with was friendly. While it is a good competition, it has also been a good experience for him to interact with people who have not played the game before or were just walking past the area and stopped by to see what was happening, he said.

Layden said he has also had the chance to play with people who know the game well, and this is the first time he has done so because he usually just plays with his friends in the park.

Johansen said he hopes to have PickleFest be an annual event, whether or not there are funds to continue holding it in the Pavilion.

“It’s pretty special to be here, for sure,” he said. “But the cost and labor to create these sports is also equally spectacular.”