By Kevin Albarez
BATON ROUGE, La. - Part of the allure of the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships is the opportunity to enjoy the variety of culture and cuisine in the host city.
This year, the spice of Louisiana's Cajun culture can be seen all over the tournament venue at the Baton Rouge River Center, and the presence of the world's largest participatory sporting event is being celebrated at various spots throughout the city.
Artwork painted by students from the Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts lines the walls of the one-of-kind 48-lane setup, while bowling pins decorated by local artists are on display at businesses across Baton Rouge and will be given away at the conclusion of the 2012 USBC Open Championships.
"Louisiana is known for having a unique culture, and the bowlers really are enjoying it," said Brian Lewis, USBC's Managing Director of Tournaments. "It's also great for the local artists to be able to add their flavor to the venue and the biggest stage in bowling. We've become part of the community, and the community has become part of our event."
Here's the details on each:
Local students paint their views of Louisiana
Bowlers from around the country are introduced to Louisiana and its culture through the eyes of students from the Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts.
Among the participating artists are fourth- and fifth-grade members of the school's art club and fifth-grade Talented Artists. The project is called "Windows into Louisiana" and is their artistic interpretations of their home state.
The "windows" are mounted in the venue for the bowlers to enjoy as they travel from the squad room to the lanes before competing in their doubles and singles events. Additional paintings are hanging in other high-traffic areas of the venue.
Through these paintings, each bowler will get a different interpretation of the state.
"The students were thrilled to have an opportunity to provide the artwork for a national tournament," said Principal Mark Richterman. "Students put their creativity into painting scenes of Baton Rouge and Louisiana. We toured the facility after it opened, and the students were really proud of their work."
One thing that is prominent in almost all of the paintings is the Louisiana landscape. With paintings of swamps, crawfish, fishing and music, the students show there is a lot to do and see in The Pelican State. The 2012 tournament marks the event's second visit to Louisiana in 109 years of competition, with the first coming in 2005, when more than 65,000 bowlers made the trip.
The students had the chance to tour the unique venue and see their paintings on display shortly after the tournament kicked off on Feb. 11. The 151-day event will run from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily until July 10.
Local artists paint bowling pins for display and giveaway
Visit Baton Rouge teamed with The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and area artists in an effort to unite the arts and the bowlers while the tournament is in town.
More than 55 bowling pins have been decorated and placed at 20 area hot spots expected to be visited by bowlers, including Circle Bowl, home of The Forty Frame Game, Metro Bowl, the bowling center for the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC, restaurants, shops and more.
The pins capture the essence of Louisiana with depictions of the scenery, food and even Louisiana State University's mascot, Mike the Tiger.
More information and the specific locations of the bowling pins can be found in the Official USBC Welcome Guide produced by The Advocate, the local newspaper, or on BowlBatonRouge.com, where visitors also can register to win one of the pins.
Winners will be selected through a random drawing at the conclusion of the 2012 Open Championships. Each winner will be notified, and the bowling pin will be shipped directly to them.
"The Fine Art of Bowling introduces the bowlers to the culture and traditions of Louisiana through the creative expressions of our artists," said Kathy Scherer, Deputy Director of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. "The artists capture many aspects of life in our region and offer the bowlers a remembrance of their time spent here participating in the tournament. The creativity of our artists is nurtured by the culture and traditions of our state, and when viewed, the pins offer the bowlers a unique panorama of our region."
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.