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Kickapoo Valley Croquet Club, a place to belong

Kickapoo Valley Croquet Club, a place to belong

A couple months ago I did a short on a group that gets together every weekend to go kayaking/canoeing on the Kickapoo river. While talking with the group, I learned that they were all members of the Kickapoo Valley Croquet Club.

Now, I was intrigued that such a club existed and knew this would be a story to follow up.

Receiving a warm invitation to attend the clubs weekly Friday night event from Kya Workowski (the clubs current host), I recently took him up on it.

Making my way over a ridge into a small valley outside of Viola, Wisconsin, I noticed a well-groomed field, quite a few cars parked beside, and a large group of people.

Upon arriving and being greeted by Kya, I was beyond impressed and amazed at the thought, work, and effort put into such a beautiful croquet course, that as Kya put it, is an official regulation size course.

Kya and his fiancé Morgan bought their house and land in 2013. Kya said it took about a year to get the court in order and start playing. “We’ve been playing ever since,” he said.

Now how the croquet gatherings got started. It actually dates back to the early 80’s when Kya’s mom Michelle and dad Ken had played in leagues.

“In the late 70’s Kenny and I played in a league in Green Lake, WI, but we’ve always played croquet, but then we got in on this league. We took it with us wherever we were on the croquet court. We eventually taught our kids how to play,” Michelle said. Their children Kya, Alena, and Marissa grew up around the fun of playing croquet, and was always a family affair.

Michelle and Ken refer to the original group that started it all as the original six, that included themselves, Craig and Beth Unger, and Dan and Sally Colacino.

When Kya and Morgan bought their place, Kya put up the croquet court and referred to it as, “these guys’ dream”, with lights and a huge raised campfire area.

As no proper croquet club and course would be complete without an official name, Kya made one when the club started playing at his place in 2014. “I had an old saw blade, and thought, ‘Let’s give it a name, the Kickapoo Valley Croquet Club’. It’s not official, no membership dues or anything. We are just here for fun and love, bonding, and a safe place to gather,” he said.

Thus, with the name of the club emblazoned on the saw blade, the club was born.

Michell said, “It’s nice, because when people come, they feel welcome, they feel not judged, and just feel comfortable. Some people when they come aren’t comfortable with a lot of people. But playing this sport outside and being around the campfire makes them comfortable.”

On that note, Kya mentioned a friend of his, and shared that she had brought her son who is introverted and has anxiety. “She brought him here and he said, ‘Mom, that’s the funnest thing I did on vacation.’ He wants to come back,” Kya said with a big smile.

It should be noted that bordering Kya and Morgans course is a pasture with cows. When the club commenced play, in what seemed to be a fashioned order, the cows sauntered over, seemingly to cheer on the players. “See, even the cows come to play,” Kya said with a chuckle.

Seasons may change, but that doesn’t stop the dedication of the club to their beloved game. Kya said they play all winter long, of course (no pun intended) and he snow blows the court. “We’ve had the ice bowl where it’s an ice court. You might hit it over there and then it will roll over there because we are on a little slope,” he said.

Ken added, “We have played in blizzards. One-night last winter, I went home (after playing) and the thermometer said it was 10 below. You definitely appreciate the campfire then.”

Michelle reminiscing, noted that before their son bought his place, the group played croquet at their homestead not far away. The only flat spot was between their neighbors Dan and Craig’s property. “That was where the croquet court went shortly after we bought our property. We knew we needed some place to have some comradery and play croquet. That was the party place for many years, until Kya built this one. So, we have two courts to play on now,” she said.

A croquet club wouldn’t be complete without a few rituals. Michelle shared with me, when the club plays, if you beat one of the old-timers (the original 6), you become a knight or lady of the court.

That evening after my departure, an unprecedented event took place. The club had not one, but two people Knighted to the Court of Croquet, a knighting that saw Sir Eli and Sir Daniel receiving a coveted rite of passage within the club.

When I asked Kya if he could sum up what the club means to him, after a short pause he spoke one word, “Joy, it is just joy. That is the only word that comes to mind. It is that simple.”

As I looked over at his mother, she had a smile and look of pride on her face…it was that simple.

For more information on the club, visit their Facebook page, Kickapoo Valley Croquet Club.

View the video teaser for this article.

Editor’s note: The winter and sunset fire photos, courtesy of the Kickapoo Valley Croquet Club.

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