North American Bowling News

Fellowship Still Going Strong at 35

The band 'War' performing at one of the Fellowship banquets

2009 marked the 35th year of one of the standout bowling leagues in the country. The Friday Fellowship league has enjoyed much local notoriety in the Washington Metropolitan area as something more than just a tenpin bowling league. What's unique about this particular bowling group is that it's a summer league that bowls on Friday nights, traditionally in the 2nd shift of the evening for the bowling center, and wherever the league has gone, it traditionally fills the entire bowling establishment's lanes with league play. In the past, depending on the early league schedules, there were some years that the league wouldn't get started until 9:30 or 10:00 pm. But the sometimes awkward time slots still couldn't keep the league from filling the house, no matter how many lanes an establishment had.

The birth of the Fellowship and its evolution are quite a fascinating tale. The league began as a church league back in 1975 with a modest 12 teams. After the first year, there was some disenchantment and a resulting diminishing interest, and in the summer that followed, only 6 teams were there to participate. A new set of officers took over to begin that summer, and with a lot of work and dedication in promoting the league, interest returned and in the following year, the league was back up to 12 teams. Continuing efforts to improve the league were a success and by 1980, the league grew to 24 teams. By this time, the group was now an entity, seemingly with a life of its own, and continued to grow. In 1985, membership had doubled to an astonishing 48 teams. Limitation of lanes was the only thing that stunted the growth of the Fellowship, as an unprecedented 61 teams were on the table to join in the following year, and thus, some had to be turned away. The 48 team limit was constantly met for several years afterward. In the years that followed, contract agreements between the league and the host bowling center proved to be an issue, and eventually the league relocated. Whichever bowling center the Fellowship league moved to, the league members faithfully followed.

The moniker, "The Joy of Sharing Good Times" has been associated with the group since its inception. During the weekly goings on of the league, there are numerous sidelines to keep the interest in bowling. For the past 25 years, the league has had a weekly 'song block', in which a number of musical numbers are piped over the bowling center's intercom, and the bowlers have to identify the songs by title and artist. The winning league member earns the $25 jackpot, if successful. There are also high game jackpots, as well as 3 separate bingos each night. Once a year, the league will have an 8-point won/lost night, instead of its customary 4-point format, to aid in keeping the league standings competitive. Also, once each summer, the league participates in "Galactic Bowling" in which the lights in the bowling center are turned down, and the establishment's neon lights are turned on for the duration of league play.

A huge part of the league's success has been in enlisting the services of high profile entertainers at the 'league-end' banquet each year. Among some of the big name performers have been groups like "War", "The Emotions", "Midnight Star", "The Ohio Players", "Jeffrey Osborne", "Morris Day and the Tyme", "En Vogue", "Jr. Walker and the All-Stars", "Fred Wesley and the JBs", "Heatwave", "J.T. Taylor (Kool and the Gang)", and "Rose Royce".

Currently, the league resides at Rinaldi's Riverdale Bowling Lanes, and Friday nights are always jammed with bowlers.

So why has the league succeeded, especially during prime-time to post prime-time hours on Friday nights in the summer? It's not too hard to figure out. People go out on the weekends to have a good time. Bowling is a game intended to be fun. It's just human nature for people enjoying to play games, especially if some of them are good at it. With a bowling league featuring so many fun outlets, the league has become 'the place to go on Friday nights'.

Underlying the surface of the league are the tremendous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the innovative league officers of the league, Michael Arrington, Carlos Weaver, and Greg Jennings. Without the initial creativity, imagination, and hard work to get things going on a positive note and keeping them going, the group certainly couldn't have made it this far. This league is a glaring example of the truth of the statement, "The more you put into something, the more you get out of it". There's no substitute for hard work, and with just a little creativity and imagination, there's no reason anything can't be a success.

If you can offer something new and intriguing to people to attract them initially and stimulate their interest consistently, with people being creatures of habit, they'll continue to come back for more.

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