Arm Rastlin’ in Carbondale: not just for the boys
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” There are a few things in our culture with universal appeal. A short list might include puppies and babies, Jimmy Stewart and “M.A.S.H.”
And if you live Carbondale, you get add on women’s arm wrestling.
On Saturday, this well-loved, tongue-in-cheek competition returns to Phat Thai. During the KDNK benefit, 32 ladies, many in costume, all with colorful handles, will duke it out. Like years past, the event promises excited crowds and pumping music. This time around, with longtime champion Barb Jaksa (AKA “The Croatian Princess”) living out of the area, it’s anybody’s title.
“If it were men’s arm wrestling, it would be so agro, it wouldn’t even be fun,” said Andrew Bisharat, who helped create the competition a few years back. “But since it’s girls, there’s a lot of camaraderie involved.”
According to him and friend Bret Roedemeier, both in their early 30s, the event grew from one night at Phat Thai, when the pair was just sitting around. Together, they realized how much they wanted something new to come to their little mountain town. Roedemeier then recalled a kitsch female wrestling match he’d once run across in Brooklyn, N.Y. For some reason, the idea just wouldn’t die. After the feverish excitement surrounding their first such event, it became clear that this was something everyone could support.
“We definitely blew the doors off,” recalled Roedemeier, of that first night.
The women ranged from their 20s to their 60s ” and the crowd was just as varied, he said. Amazingly, even after five such events, the wrestling’s crazy, eclectic quality has sustained itself. It’s almost like a family thing, explained Bisharat ” for those over 21, of course.
When given a call, many of the women involved in past matches acted a little embarrassed at first, but were soon willing to share.
“I just slammed them down!” laughed Nancy Festa, 44, who participated a few years ago. She’s “Firefly,” to those in the wrestling know.
Festa said she’d gone along just to watch, but had been roped in when one more lady was needed. Self-described as 5′ 2″ on a “big hair day,” she said she was absolutely shocked she started winning.
Totally jovial, she admitted her streak was short-lived, but that was fine. For her, winning wasn’t the point at all.
“The coolest part for me is seeing all those beautiful, strong women, all psyched to complete, you know?” she said. “It’s really nice to see the women show up and support one another.”
Dominique Jackson, 33, aka “The Bommer,” remembered a state of near zen during one match. For something like six minutes, she and “The Tick” held their ground ” and the rest of the world fell away. The sound around Jackson became tinny, and all she could really hear was the ref, who it seemed was shouting out tips, just for her.
“I basically said through my eyes, back off b”,” she remembered, laughing.
Jackson would eventually win over her opponent, but in the end, was no match for Jaksa. Then again, neither was anyone else.
“I’m not bigger or stronger than any of them,” joked Jaksa, 58. “I’m just meaner.”
She was low-key about her prowess as she spoke from her new home outside Seattle. The “Princess” seemed happy to pass down her crown and offered a few pointers to up-and-coming ladies. Go in costume, she said, make sure you’ve got a good position (your finger over your thumb). When you first arrive, be sure tip the bar tender. Come on, all athletes need hydration.
Most importantly, if you really want to compete like me, she explained, just go out there and have fun.
“That’s what it’s all about,” she said.
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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