BRIDGTON — This Saturday, contenders from across the U.S. and beyond will descend on Bridgton Academy for the Four Square World Championships.

Although conceived 10 years ago as a tongue-in-cheek fundraiser for a dreary midwinter evening, the World Championships has earned its title over the years, according to Lakes Environmental Association Director Peter Lowell.

“It is the legitimate world championships, you can check it out, Wikipedia has us listed and everything,” he said.

A $10 registration fee goes to support the group’s environmental work in the lakes region of Western Maine. More than 100 competitors are expected to show up this year, although because there is no advance registration, organizers never know exactly who will show up.

Four square, most often associated with playgrounds, has developed an adult following in the U.S. The playing surface is a 16-foot square, drawn or taped off on a gym floor, which is divided into four quarters, numbered one though four, with one player standing in each quarter. The object of the game is to bounce a rubber ball in between the squares until someone makes a mistake and is eliminated, making way for a new player.

“It’s a legitimate sport in that it takes a lot of skill to play it well, so that’s what makes the finals so much fun to watch,” Lowell said.

“It’s not a nasty competition, but it’s certainly serious,” he said. “People are going all-out.”

Over the years, the event has attracted enough international visitors, from Barbados, Israel and Canada, to make World Championships an accurate title.

Regular competitors come from all around New England, as well as California, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, although attending the championships isn’t always their only reason for visiting, said Sean Effel of Squarefour, a leading four square group in the Boston area.

Effel has been coming to the World Championships for years, and as one of the world’s leading experts on four square, agrees that the event has earned its title.

“There’s no one else who runs tournaments or championships for four square; these guys in Maine are the only ones who do that,” Effel said. “Now that they’ve been doing it for 10 years, I think that makes it official. They’ve laid claim and no one has challenged them.”

The event is open to the public and all ages and skill levels are invited. The event begins at 5 p.m. Saturday with a rules workshop and open play session before getting into the elimination rounds. There are three divisions to compete in: men, women and children. The event is scheduled to end at 9 p.m., when the new champions will receive their trophies.

“If somebody’s a decent athlete, they have a decent chance,” Lowell said. “We do it primarily for fun, but the people who have trophies are pretty intent on keeping them.”

For more information, contact Peter Lowell at (207) 647-8580 or [email protected]

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