ST. CLAIRSVILLE - There are lots of enduring sports traditions in the Ohio Valley. One of them celebrates its golden anniversary this weekend.
St. Clair Lanes will play host to the United USBC Women's Bowling Association's 50th tournament Saturday and Sunday.
''There are lots of associations located within Ohio and don't believe there are that many who have reached 50 years,'' noted Lori Gillen, manager of the local association.
''So, for us, to remain viable for 50 years is quite an accomplishment. And we're quite proud of that.''
Opening ceremonies begin at 10:15 a.m. Saturday with Matt VanFossen signing the National Anthem. Ceremonial first balls will be rolled by Jean Tondola-Smith, Ohio USBC Women's Bowling Association President, and St. Clairsville Council President Terry Pugh.
There will be plenty of other dignitaries on hand, too. They include members of United's Board of Directors - Linda Scaggs, president, St. Clairsville; Debbie Walker, sergeant-at-arms, Mt. Pleasant; and its Directors - Abbey and Pat Bennett of Martins Ferry; and Dee Smolira of Flushing.
Also, Louise Boyd, who recently passed away and served as the group's president, will be recognized.
''It's been a challenging year for our Board of Directors, but we have all pulled together to make this happen and provide a tournament experience our bowlers will be able to enjoy,'' Gillen said.
Gillen said the local association is comprised of about 325 members representing three bowling centers - St. Clair Lanes, Park-Legion Lanes in Martins Ferry and JR Lanes in New Athens.
In addition, Gillen said, when Elm Grove Lanes in Wheeling closed its doors recently, the club absorbed some of those members.
''We're expecting about 75 of our members to participate in the tournament,'' Gillen said. ''We had our last push to get entries in (Tuesday night). We think everything is good to go.''
United conducts numerous activities throughout the year, but this tournament is its signature event.
''We'll have two shifts Saturday - 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and one Sunday at 11 a.m.,'' Gillen said.
The local association has always been a force on the state bowling scene, according to Gillen, thanks, in part, because of the strength its members have shown at events like those being conducted this weekend.
Gillen also noted the support from area bowling centers has also aided in the success.
''I couldn't ask for more assistance or better cooperation,'' she said of Gary Holubeck and his staff at St. Clair Lanes. ''If we just mention something, they make it happen.''
Thorp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org