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..Past CHIT Directors

CHIT
Director(s)
1
Gene Sides
2
Gene Sides
3
Gene Sides
4
Billy Sessums
5
Bill Donovan
6
John Gallagan
7
Bob Fontaine
8
Chuck Dasenbrook
9
Chuck Pence
10
Andrea Lapenski
11
Diane Embry and Scott Taylor
12
Gene Sides
13
Melvin Larsen
14
Bob Fontaine
15
Todd Musick
16
Todd Musick
17
Todd Musick
18
Ric Alia-Bicoy and Jack Ellison
19
Belva Boone
20
Bill Roman and Steve Mathis
21
Todd Musick
22
Dan Jeffers
23
Bob Fontaine
24
Dan Jeffers
25
Bill Roman
26
Executive Officer: Jack Ellison
Director of Marketing: Robert Treadway
Director of Operations: Dan Jeffers
27
Executive Officer: Bill Roman
Director of Marketing: Adam Boenning
Director of Operations: Steve Frable
28
Executive Officer: Steve Frable
Director of Marketing: Bob Fontaine
Director of Operations: Gary Deinken
29
CHIT Goes to Mid-Year:
IGBO 2010 Mid-Year Tournament

Executive Director: Steve Frable
Director of Operations: Jeremy Glasser
Co-Director of Marketing: Adam Boenning
Co-Director of Marketing: Robert Treadway
30
Executive Officer: Jack Ellison
Director of Marketing: Bob Fontaine
Director of Operations: Carlton Roark
31
Executive Officer: Adam Boenning
Director of Marketing: Jim Giordano
Director of Operations: Steve Frable
32
Executive Officer: Steve Frable
Director of Marketing: Donny Tang
Director of Operations: Dan Jeffers
33
Executive Officer: Dan Jeffers
Director of Marketing: Adam Boenning
Director of Operations: Jim Giordano
34
Executive Officer: Steve Frable
Director of Marketing: Dale Roberts
Director of Operations: Donny Tang
35
Executive Officer: Bob Fontaine
Director of Marketing: Rob Treadway
Director of Operations: Gary Deinken

 

CHIT: A History

What are the Capital Halloween Invitational Tournament (CHIT) and IGBO?

CHIT is, in actuality, the third-oldest, fixed-site bowling tournament in the world that is affiliated with the International Gay Bowling Organization (IGBO). CHIT is an invitational event, conducted in accordance with United States Bowling Congress (formerly, American Bowling Congress and Women’s International Bowling Congress) rules, that is open to all eligible bowlers, regardless of sexual orientation, and features a handicap (as opposed to scratch) scoring process.

The tournament is held during the Halloween weekend each year, consists of three separate competitions–singles, doubles and team–and awards cash and trophy prizes for each. The CHIT was founded and directed in 1982 by Gene Sides and has taken place every year since then in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

IGBO is one of the largest lesbian and gay sports organizations in the world, the charter of which is to provide educational services, communication avenues, and social opportunities to promote the sport of bowling and to enrich the lives of individuals through leagues and tournaments worldwide.

The ideals of IGBO are: 1) unity (bringing together a large body of individuals, all with varying ideas and viewpoints and a common goal of working together to create, develop and enhance the organization); 2) fellowship (meeting new acquaintances and making close friends locally, nationally and internationally); and, 3) communication (keeping members informed of activities and events that are the lifeblood of the organization and our community, in addition to expressing and communicating ideas for the betterment of the IGBO experience).

IGBO was created in 1980 when representatives from Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, San Diego and Toronto identified a strong need for an organization to help unify the growing gay and lesbian bowling community. Their effort and foresight laid the foundation of IGBO, which incorporated as a nonprofit in 1985 and is now comprised of more than 14,000 bowlers and in excess of 150 leagues and over 55 tournaments, throughout Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

How did gay bowling tournaments originate?

In 1978, gay bowlers and organizers in Milwaukee started something that no one could have predicted. A small group of individuals in that city organized a gay bowling tournament, the Holiday Invitational Tournament (HIT)–the first such national gay event–over Thanksgiving weekend and it, indeed, lived up to its name, being a big “hit.” That monumental occurrence set the stage for the aforementioned creation of IGBO.

In April of 1981, Atlanta became the second American city to stage a gay bowling tournament with the birth of the Dixie Invitational Tournament, which takes place during the Easter weekend of each year. The following month, the first annual IGBO Tournament, which was designed to rotate amongst IGBO member cities, was held in Houston. Later that year, the Washington, DC metropolitan area would launch its first gay bowling league at Pla-Mor Lanes in Arlington, VA, comprised of 16 four-member teams, under the auspices of the area’s gay sports umbrella organization–the DC Sports Association (DCSA), established in 1979 and over which Skip Embrey presided as President.

What led to the DCSA’s affiliation with IGBO?

Toward the completion of the Washington, DC area’s first full season of gay bowling in the spring of 1982, 20 members of the DCSA league traveled to Atlanta to participate in the second annual Dixie Tournament and represent Washington, DC–the city’s first appearance on the national gay bowling scene. After a fun-filled Easter weekend of bowling, good will and camaraderie with gay bowlers from around the country and Canada, one of DC’s participants, Gene Sides, leaned over to Skip Embrey and said, “We’ve got to do this back home!” The following month, after a few struggles with the DCSA’s Board of Directors over the feasibility of hosting the largest gay sporting event ever to be held in the area, Sides persuaded the group to accept his proposal for hosting a gay bowling tournament over the 1982 Labor Day weekend. The event was to be called the “Capital Labor Day Invitational Tournament” (CLIT–no offense intended toward our wonderful female members). Sides had to assure the DCSA Board that, under his leadership, the CLIT tournament would be fiscally sound, properly organized, and well executed, despite the very limited time frame available for the necessary planning and logistical arrangements. Subsequently, Sides was appointed to be DCSA’s first Bowling Commissioner and the DC area’s first representative to IGBO. As such, he was granted authorization by the DCSA Board to attend the IGBO annual meeting in Dallas over the 1982 Memorial Day weekend, secure IGBO’s formal acceptance of DCSA’s application for membership and extend an invitation to all IGBO members to participate in the first annual CLIT a little more than three months later.

Wait a minute, what happened to CLIT?

Prior to his arrival at the 1982 IBGO annual meeting in Dallas, as was the practice, Sides requested that he be assigned a time slot on the meeting agenda. As it turned out, he was to speak immediately following the delegate from Minneapolis. At that time, the agenda provided no information regarding the subject matter to be addressed by the respective delegates. While sitting in the conference room and browsing through his talking points, Sides heard the delegate from Minneapolis, Dan Donovan, state that his city was proud to announce that it would be hosting the first annual Paul Bunyan Invitational (PBI) Tournament over Labor Day weekend in 1983–the following year! At that moment, Sides experienced nothing less than utter shock and panic! He was to speak in less than five minutes and the sole authority granted to him by DCSA was to proclaim that Washington, DC was proud to serve notice that it would be hosting the first annual “Capital Labor Day Invitational Tournament ” (CLIT) over the upcoming Labor Day weekend in 1982! What occurred during the next three minutes would alter DCSA, Washington, DC area gay bowling and IGBO history. At that moment, there were two options available to Sides: 1) request that he be deleted from the IGBO meeting agenda; or, 2) take the risk and potentially face the consequences for selecting and announcing an alternate tournament date and title–within three minutes! During an ensuing whirlwind scan through the calendar for another holiday weekend, and knowing that Seattle sponsored a now-defunct July 4th gay bowling tournament, Sides made the fateful decision to gamble by selecting the Halloween weekend (which he thought could prove to be fun) and naming the tournament the “Capital Halloween Invitational Tournament” (CHIT). When it was Side’s turn to speak to the IGBO delegation, he made no mention of the intended CLIT and, instead, modified his talking points to publicize plans for a CHIT. Fortunately, when Sides returned home to DC, the DCSA Board was supportive of the outcome and, thus, CHIT was born and the rush was now on to be prepared for some unchartered territory and a wild ride.

The first CHIT, 1982. With outstanding support from the DC gay bowling community, successful fundraising and devoted committee members (especially, the late Bruce Budd and the late Hal Jones), the first CHIT in 1982 drew 160 bowlers (40 4-person teams) and, based upon feedback received from the participants, was a resounding success. The tournament field included 63 bowlers from the DC area, 41 from New York, 20 from Houston, 12 from Toronto, 10 from Dallas, 4 from Milwaukee, 4 from Chicago, 2 from Seattle, 2 from Baltimore, 1 from Minneapolis and 1 from Honolulu. The two-day event consisted of three-game singles and three-game doubles events held on Saturday and a three-game team event on Sunday, followed by an awards dinner and banquet held at the Crystal City Marriott Hotel later that afternoon/evening. CHIT employed a one-shift format, which provided for all participants to be present in the bowling center at the same time for all nine games, enabling everyone to see and enjoy all of the fun, happenings and silliness (including several entrants bowling in Halloween costumes). Bowlers’ final scores were adjusted based upon a handicapping, as opposed to scratch, scoring system that utilized the entrants’ league averages, in order to provide a level playing field for all bowlers–regardless of bowling proficiency. Over $7,000 in prize money–the highest proportionate prize fund of any earlier gay tournaments–was awarded to those bowlers who placed in either singles, doubles, team, singles all-events (nine-game total), or team all-events (36-game team total).

Most importantly, CHIT gained the distinction of providing a “personal touch,” which included the provision to all out-of-town bowlers of private housing and transportation and even meeting and greeting participants at the airport. CHIT also featured:

  • a registration party on the Friday evening prior to bowling at the Lost and Found restaurant/bar/disco
  • registration packets that contained a printed tournament program
  • a name badge
  • individual bowler gift packets of local tourism information, discount offers and
  • souvenirs from tournament sponsors
  • complimentary CHIT T-shirts
  • complimentary doughnuts each morning, prior to bowling
  • and individual bags of Halloween candy at each place setting at the banquet.

In addition to entertainment, the banquet provided such a multitude of raffle prizes; almost everyone present took something home. All cities represented were honored by customized city banners–very large and symbolic works of art designed by Dal Kimberling to depict a scene from those cities. The banners were on display in the host bowling center throughout the tournament and at the banquet, with several being retrieved by representatives of the participating cities for display back home (including Chicago, for the 1983 IGBO annual tournament banquet).

The previously mentioned “personal touch” extended beyond that from tournament officials to the bowlers to include heightened respect, appreciation and friendliness from bowling center management and personnel toward the gay bowling community in the DC area. This transition quietly began to evolve when the host bowling center for DCSA’s weekly league during the 1982-83 bowling season would not permit the CHIT to be conducted in that establishment. In light of that discriminatory obstacle, Sides approached the manager of the Ten-Pin Coliseum in Alexandria, VA, who subsequently accepted the proposition to host CHIT, stating that his corporate management believed it to be the “right thing to do.” (The positive response from the Ten-Pin Coliseum motivated Sides, as DCSA Bowling Commissioner, to relocate the DCSA leagues for the 1983-84 season from the Bowl America bowling center to Ten-Pin Coliseum, which even supplied additional parking lot security on DCSA bowling nights to ensure that there was no harassment by locals of its new gay patrons. Additionally, the management of the Ten-Pin Coliseum cautioned its other patrons that unfriendly or threatening conduct directed toward the new gay clientele would not be tolerated). During CHIT, the change in body language of bowling center personnel spoke volumes, as managers and employees were transformed from uncomfortable, arms-folded, quiet onlookers to jovial and participative individuals whose attitudes transitioned from mere tolerance of their gay clientele to an appreciation for a subculture with which they had either little or no prior experience.

In retrospect, CHIT 1982 (as well as future CHITs) bridged many gaps–between DCSA Board members and the bowling contingent of the umbrella organization; between bowlers, both from around the country and Canada; between heterosexual, gay and lesbian members of the bowling community; and, between very diverse groups of people who reside in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. The CHIT 1982 Farewell Party, held at Cy’s on Wisconsin Avenue and featuring numerous renditions of the tournament’s unofficial theme songs, “Looking For A City” and “Gloria,” along with bar top dancing, would prove to be a fond topic of discussion within IGBO for years to come.

CHIT 1983–Year Two. The second annual CHIT (1983) was born at the conclusion of the awards dinner and banquet of CHIT 1982. When asked by an out-of-town participant during his closing remarks whether or not there would be a CHIT in 1983, Gene Sides looked to the back corner of the ballroom to see Skip Embrey nod his head in the affirmative. With that, Sides proceeded to announce that CHIT would, indeed, be replicated the following year, to a round of applause from the attendees.

For CHIT 1983, Sides and his dedicated tournament committee members elected to expand to 48 five-member teams and, subsequently, all 240 available slots for the 48-lane bowling center were sold out more than five weeks prior to the entry deadline. The size of the field was dictated by the one-shift bowling format that provided for all bowlers to be present in the bowling center, bowling in the same events at the same time and, thus, share equally in the festive and sociable environment. The tournament field consisted of 83 entrants from the Washington, DC area, 63 from New York, 14 from Atlanta, 11 from Toronto, 10 from Houston, 8 from Columbus, 6 from Detroit, 5 each from Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Milwaukee, and New Orleans, 4 each from Louisville and St. Louis, 2 each from San Francisco and Honolulu, and 1 each from Charleston (WV), Portland (OR) and Roanoke (VA).

The goals of CHIT 1983 were simple: to grow, yet retain the design, spirit and successes of 1982; expand, fine-tune, automate, and enhance the overall sophistication of the event; and cement CHIT’s reputation as a top-tier tournament–regardless of its affiliation. Once again, a registration reception was held on Friday evening at the Lost and Found; all entrants received a registration packet containing a printed tournament program, name badge, a complimentary CHIT ’83 T-shirt, and other informational materials similar to those for the prior CHIT; individual Halloween candy bags were provided at each banquet place setting; and a festive farewell party took place at Cy’s. Feedback received from everyone involved was overwhelmingly positive and it became clear that a tradition had started.

The bowling format and events remained the same as in CHIT 1982, with the bowling taking place at Alexandria Bowling Center (formerly “Ten-Pin Coliseum”) and the awards dinner and banquet being conducted at the Crystal City Marriott Hotel, where its bartenders drew straws to see who would win the prize of tending bar for the occasion, given the prior year’s banquet merriment and extraordinarily large tips garnered by the bartenders. At the banquet, a plethora of raffle prizes and hilarious entertainment was provided, while the number and quality of the Halloween costumes donned for the banquet were nothing shy of epic, in proportion. Once again, CHIT’s “personal touch” reigned supreme and, as was the case the prior year, the prize money awarded exceeded expectations (over $9,000). It was obvious that DC proved that it “really gave a CHIT!”

CHIT 1984–Year Three. For the third CHIT (1984), Gene Sides came out of retirement when called upon to direct the tournament after the previously-appointed director wished to step down and, instead, serve as Gene’s primary assistant for a third consecutive year.

Once again, the tournament committee chose to stick with the winning formula of a one-shift bowling format that contributed to a “party atmosphere” and the “personal touch” for which CHIT had become well known, including private housing, transportation and airport greetings. However, the tournament committee wished to try something different in order to accommodate a larger field, since so many prospective participants were disappointingly turned away the prior year due to the early sold-out status. As a means of expanding the field to 288 bowlers (48 more than the prior year), while retaining the one-shift format, the decision was made to increase the team composition to six members. This was a first and, despite the increased amount of time required for the bowling events (including a 4-game singles competition), the additional bowlers who were able to join the fun, as a result, certainly didn’t mind and were happy to be a part of the second consecutive sold-out field.

Cities represented in the tournament field included Washington, DC (101 bowlers), New York (58), Atlanta (30), Toronto (16), Cincinnati (11), Pittsburgh (9), Dallas (9), Chicago (6), Columbus (6), Houston (6), Minneapolis (5), New Orleans (5), West Palm Beach (5), Roanoke (4), Detroit (4), Baltimore (4), Milwaukee (2), Los Angeles (2), Clearwater (1), Portland, Oregon (1), St. Louis (1), San Francisco (1) and Seattle (1). Once again, the tournament featured a 3-event (singles, doubles, and team), 10-game total format, with prizes awarded for singles, doubles, team, all-event singles and all-events team scores, with the bowling taking place at the Alexandria Bowling Center on Saturday and Sunday, and the awards dinner and banquet taking place at the Ramada Renaissance in Alexandria, VA, a few hours after the completion of the team event. CHIT 1984 incorporated all of the amenities and activities of the prior two CHITs, including a registration party on Friday; registration packets containing complimentary t-shirts, official tournament programs, discount coupons and souvenirs; a new, comprehensive guest information and tourism guide to assist participants in the planning and safe conduct of their tournament weekend; and a farewell party at Cy’s. The three CHITs earned a reputation for being lively, personal, economical, enjoyably competitive, and placing emphasis on maximal reward for as many bowlers as possible, as over $10,000 in prize money was awarded.

In just 29 months, from the announcement at the IGBO annual meeting in Dallas during the Memorial Day weekend in 1982 to the Halloween weekend of 1984, CHIT had established a reputation as a premiere bowling tournament. The local media attention during the first three CHITs, such as feature articles in The Washington Blade, gave DCSA and CHIT additional positive exposure within the DC gay subculture and the platform to expand never-before-seen opportunities and outlets for gay men and women within the national capital area to come together, socialize, compete and establish long-lasting relationships with other local and national gay organizations.

NOTE: Although Gene Sides retired from CHIT after 1984, in July 1993, he lobbied and convinced the DCSA Board of Directors to reverse its earlier decision to cancel CHIT 1993 (the result of recent CHIT financial losses), on the condition that he would serve as director and restore its fiscal solvency. With a “back to basics” philosophy and the theme, “CHIT Rolls Back The Clock,” CHIT lowered entry fees to pre-1984 prices ($59); welcomed 215 bowlers from 28 cities; returned to the pre-1985 one-shift bowling format and awards categories; also featured scratch divisions, side pots, Lucky Strike raffles, and a no-tap, half-time prize pot roll-off between the singles and doubles events; and awarded almost $7,000 in prize money–nearly $2,000 over original projections! The “flash from the past” tournament, though required to scale back a bit due to organizational time restraints, featured the components and amenities of the first three CHITs (with the exception of the provision of private housing and transportation) and added a few wrinkles, such as Halloween buttons for 200 and 40+ over average games; cash prizes for best banquet costumes; grab bag prizes; and the conduct of the “Unduly Wed Game Show” (starring tournament bowling couples) at the banquet. The tournament weekend began with a reception and hospitality suite at the Washington Marriott Hotel; once again saw the Alexandria Bowling Center serve as host for the two-day, 9-game competition; and concluded with the awards dinner and banquet also at the Washington Marriott. As a result, with the support of DCSA, the Alexandria Bowling Center, the Washington Marriott Hotel and DC’s gay bowling leagues, CHIT’s financial solvency was restored, the DC gay bowling community’s enthusiasm and interest in CHIT were renewed, and a tradition was back on course and destined to continue. Subsequently, CHIT has now occurred annually, without interruption, since 1982.

CHIT 1985–Year Four. CHIT 1985 continued to grow under the leadership of Billy Sessums. Corporate sponsorship (Anheiser-Busch, Bud Light), entry “brochures,” a PBA-style roll-off, and an in-town host hotel were business-driven innovations, which were quickly borrowed by tournaments across the country.

CHIT 1986–Year Five. CHIT 1986 was directed by Bill Donovan and experienced the largest entry field, to date, for a CHIT, with over 350 bowlers from the United States and Canada. Suddenly, CHIT’s small-town atmosphere turned metropolitan with a two-house, two-shift format. The musical group “Betty” wowed the audience and ushered in a new era in banquet entertainment.

CHIT 1987–Year Six. Under the guidance of John Galligan, CHIT 1987 provided an expanded tournament with activities, such as the first “Champagne Tour of Washington.” As CHIT grew in focus, the banquet grew toward an international theme and featured food from around the world.

CHIT 1988–Year Seven. CHIT 1988, directed by Bob Fontaine, set another precedent with the introduction of the CHIT Scratch Division. The Washington Hilton was the host hotel, bringing a grand style to CHIT and continuing the trend of a quality-driven event.

CHIT 1989–Year Eight. Chuck Dasenbrook, the director of CHIT 1989, brought a new level of leadership and participation to the tournament. Sports Plus/Carmen Don, a local pro shop, provided lead sponsorship, thus giving CHIT the ability to provide a stronger emphasis on the prize fund. Also, in 1989, CHIT opened its doors to support the integration of all bowlers, straight and gay, alike. CHIT was, indeed, progressing and gaining a reputation of being a leading Washington bowling tournament.

CHIT 1990–Year Nine. CHIT 1990, directed by Chuck Pence, introduced a new wave of innovations. The Jackpot Strike and lottery fund raisers produced funds and heightened interest in the community. The Champagne Tour returned and the banquet entertainment was unsurpassed with a captivating performance by singer Pamala Stanley.

After the demise of the DC Sports Association, the administration of CHIT was under the direction of a committee of the Capital Area Rainbowlers Association (CARA) through 2006.

In 2007, CHIT reorganized and is now a separate entity. Jack Ellison was selected to head the committee which drafted new bylaws and subsequently became the Executive Director for that year.