Fairway Pines residents are competition finalists

Give a hand to the residents of Fairway Pines in Sauk Centre; their grip strength and timing has brought them to the finals of the Grip Games, a grip-based competition against other assisted living facilities across Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Sauk Centre team, the Iron Vise Grips, will be having their championship match at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, against the Yorkies from Yorkshire of Edina Senior Living.

“Everyone’s really excited,” said Maggie Paris, Fairway Pines executive director. “We’re going to do a tailgating party with a pep rally in the dining room upstairs before we get rolling at one o’clock. The cheering squad put it together; they even asked us to do a halftime show.” 

The Grip Games competition is focused on how much water four team members can pump through a tower-like contraption called a powerhouse. The powerhouse has four bulbs, one for each team member, which they then pump either one after the other or two at a time to get the water flowing. With each facility participating remotely for matches, teams pump for four periods of five minutes, and whichever team pumps the most is the winner.

Sauk Centre’s Iron Vise Grips have competed in eight matches, starting Aug. 11, as well as one scrimmage Aug. 4. They have pumped about 880 gallons of water so far, their numbers getting better as the season continues.

The Iron Vise Grips team members are Fairway Pines residents Don Toenies, Jay Brisson, Bob Wensman, Bob Essler and Bernie Uhlenkamp, with Wensman serving as the team captain. Fellow resident Lois Emblom often serves as the team’s timekeeper. There is also the team’s loyal cheering section.

The facilities participating in the Grip Games have to pay a fee to participate, and the money then is used as the competition’s prizes. Fairway Pines is eligible to receive $1,200 so far, with another $1,000 added to that if they defeat Yorkshire of Edina on Sept. 22; whatever money is received will be used for activity purposes.

The Grip Games are facilitated by Lifespark, a home healthcare service based out of St. Louis Park.

For Paris, the main benefit of this competition is the meaningful activity it provides for the Fairway Pines residents.

“On Monday, (the team is) practicing and thinking of strategies to win the competition,” Paris said. “Some of the gentlemen also said they’re dreaming about it at night.”