CLINTON – A number of things lead people through the doors of the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce. For all the common reasons — economic development, tourism, event planning among them — Becky Graves claims no expertise.
Graves knows bowling, a sport she’s played for the better part of 33 years. That love of pins and lanes led to a conversation with Chamber President Nathan Sondgeroth last May.
She has long thought about what hosting the Iowa Women’s State Bowling Tournament — a 14-week competition that draws women by the thousands — would mean for the local community. Last spring, a change in the state association’s hosting policies made what was only imaginable possible again.
“In a way, it was like the blind leading the blind,” Graves said. “I hadn’t attempted anything like this before.”
Months later, the rest of the state got a taste of the Gateway area’s passion for bowling, leading to the kind of news that creates pandemonium for local enthusiasts. After a nine-month bid process, Clinton and Camanche were selected to host the 2016 Iowa State United States Bowling Congress Women’s Bowling Association (ISUSBCWBA) state tournament.
Only then did Graves believe that passion could come to the Gateway area.
60 years in the making
Clinton last hosted the tournament in 1951, back when pin-setting was a manual operation. The sport has maintained a strong local contingent, with women’s bowling associations in both Clinton and Camanche. But local lanes always seemed a step behind rule changes.
For Cindy Garvey, owner of Camanche’s Imperial Lanes, it’s literally been a lifetime since the major bowling event came to Clinton County. Since she was old enough to hold a ball, Garvey has loved to bowl. It’s taken up a bulk of her last 40 years, and Imperial Lanes is a family business.