Traditional games are played throughout the world, by individuals and groups of all ages, with formal or informal rules, and at homes, schools, work, and a variety of community settings. Traditional games are most often learned by observing and participating in a game; teachers are most often a parent or other familiar adult, a sibling, or a friend.
Games play a critical role in fostering and maintaining ethnic and group identity, acquiring physical and intellectual skills, learning cultural knowledge, and developing and negotiating social relationships. At this year's National Folk Festival, marbles and the traditional card games of cribbage and buck euchre are featured Many more games will be available in the Children's Folk Arts Festival section of the festival.
Marble Games Tent
Calling all mibsters, young and old(er) to join the fun in the marble yards. Find out how to dust your thumb and knuckle-down, try marble-shooting, and discover the fun of playing marbles. Champion-level, marble-playing teenagers from Tennessee will teach and demonstrate ringer and other marble games. Students from Lansing's Center for Language, Culture and Communication Arts will demonstrate marble games from Haiti, Cuba, and Liberia. A practice area allows visitors to learn and share techniques and games.
Molly Reecer, Coy and Molly Tinsley, Travis Cherry Clay County, Tennessee
In Clay County, Tennessee, playing marbles is a community and family tradition. Men play a local game called "roley hole" in backyard, dirt marble yards. Boys practice and play along, hoping to join the men. The traditional game of "ringer" is also played, and kids now compete in ringer in the elementary schools to choose contestants for the National Marbles Tournament in Wildwood, New Jersey. There games are played in a ten-foot diameter circle on a concrete surface. The tournament offers kids ages 7 to 14 a chance to compete and also meet other marbles enthusiasts like themselves. Typically, youth practice five days a week in order to gain the skill and confidence to compete on a national level. An International Marbles Festival at which groups from all over the world gather to share marble games is now held annually in a Tennessee state park. At the 2001 National Folk Festival, three Clay County teens will teach ringer, basic marble shooting, and other marble games. Molly Reecer is the 1996 girls' champion of the National Marbles Tournament, setting a record for the longest final 15 games. Reecer practiced for ten hours a day in the days before winning the championship. She now chaperones other Clay County girls to the tournament. High school students Coy and Molly Tinsley competed and placed in the national tournament. To practice for the tournaments, the Tinsleys invited friends over for picnics and marble playing so they could gather other good marble players at their home and advance their skill level. The three marble players will be accompanied by Travis Cherry, himself a roley hole player, who now promotes the playing of marbles among Clay County youth by serving as a marbles coach and running the county tournaments. Cherry has led Tennessee contestants to Wildwood and demonstrated marbles at international events in England.
Traditional Card Games
A deck of cards and a 15-minute break is all workers at automotive plants, government and university offices, retail businesses, and other work settings need to find relief from their jobs and enjoy social time by playing euchre with their co-workers. At senior citizens centers, veterans halls, recreation centers, and fraternal organizations, people gather to socialize while playing whist, canasta, or skip-bo. At cottages, cabins, fishing and deer camps, friends and relatives while away their leisure time playing hearts, gin rummy, and cribbage.
Traditional card games are important recreational activities that most players learn from friends or relatives. Children begin with easy games such as war, hearts, and go fish. Some games are popular within certain age or social groups, some are more popular in certain regions than others. Many are relatively easy to learn, all require minimal and easily portable equipment, and, except for solitaire, all have a social dimension.
Harlan MacDowell, Grand Ledge, Michigan
Douglas MacDowell, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Paul MacDowell, Kingston, New York
Chris Luz, East Lansing, Michigan
Regina Luz, East Lansing, Michigan
Hugh MacDowell, Grand Ledge, Michigan
Cribbage is a card game for which you need a deck of cards (poker), a cribbage board (to keep score), and at least two people. When two people play, each person is dealt six cards. From those six cards, each person discards two cards to the "crib." Points are awarded for pairs, runs held in hand, and combinations of cards that add up to fifteen resulting in the common counting chants "15-2, 15-4, 15-6....." When laying down cards points are also awarded but the total cannot exceed 31; the player who comes closest to 31 without going over gets one point. The 1st person to score 121 points wins. Cribbage is the card game of choice whenever the extended family of patriarch Harlan MacDowell get together, whether at home or on fishing trips or reunions. Harlan recalls learning the game at an early age from his father, George MacDowell, and grandfather, Clarence MacDowell. George, a woodworker by trade, made several cribbage boards including one table-sized one inherited by his son Forrest. Harlan's son Doug recalls many times playing cribbage after dinner with his dad while listening to the Tiger baseball games on the radio; they played on one of George's boards and used toothpicks, matches, and nails for pegs, but never a properly carved cribbage peg. Today, Doug, his brothers Bruce and Paul, and his brother-in-law, Chris Luz, all each have several boards, all of them unique and some designed for three players. Together with Hugh MacDowell and Regina Luz of the next generation, they carry on this family card tradition.
Minnesota Buck Euchre
John Burton learned to play Buck Euchre while attending Southwest Minnesota State College (now Southwest State University) in the late 1960s. In this area of southwestern Minnesota, consisting primarily of rural families with German, Swedish, and Norwegian roots, everybody grew up playing this unique variant of Euchre. It is a fun, fast game, with lots of different possible plays, but not so complicated that you can't spend plenty of time socializing. The play of the cards is similar to Euchre but aspects such as bidding are similar to Hasenpfeffer. Other aspects specific to the game are: 1) each player starts with 36 points and must get down to 0 to win; 2) players must bid to get out of the game; 3) highest bid calls the trump/suit; and 4) all the cards (Ace to 9) are used in play. John speculates that the game became so popular in that primarily rural area as it is a good game to play in family situations; there are fewer cards for children to have to hold in their hands.
Since playing cards is a lot more fun than studying, John soon picked up the game. Continuing his education (he didn't just play cards!) at Michigan State University, John was surprised to learn that no one knew the game. As Mayo Hall's resident director, John became a goodwill ambassador, enthusiastically teaching the game to the residents. There is now a small but growing multi-generational group of people in Michigan playing this SW Minnesota variant of Buck Euchre. At the National Folk Festival, John will continue passing on the game to others while playing a few hands with his old MSU buddies and their families and catching up on the news, just as he does every time he gets back to Michigan.