ROSE BOWL CLASSIC
How it all began!
Tom Giel conceived the idea for a community celebration for the
growing number of participants in
Portland’s first organized gay sporting event – The Portland Community
Gay and Lesbian Bowling Association. Meeting with gay community leaders
and business owners, the concept was accepted as one of value that the
community leaders would support.
Rose Bowl Classic was permanently scheduled for the weekend following
Memorial Day to purposefully coincide with the Portland Rose Festival
opening weekend. That particular weekend is probably one of the most
festive weekends in Portland, including a Friday night fireworks display
close to downtown bars and on Saturday evening, the United States 2nd
largest electrically lit parade through the downtown streets, passing by
many of our local watering holes. The party atmosphere in the Gay
community is similar to that of Mardi Gras.
In 1983, the first Rose Bowl Classic was held. The event consisted of 4
games – for team event with the best 3 placed together to determine the
singles winners. The cost was under $40.00. (See Past Winners History
page for further details.) It attracted about 70 bowlers, primarily
from Portland. Henry Long represented
which he continued to do for twenty consecutive years from1983
through the Rose Bowl's twentieth anniversary in 2003. Sacramento also
hosted the annual IGBO tournament on Memorial Day weekend. Due to its
proximity to Portland, in timing (a week earlier) and in mileage, many
bowlers from across the US and Canada attended Portland’s 2nd
annual Rose Bowl Classic including Jackie Baker of Dallas, IGBO
President John Hammett of Los Angeles and John Weaver of Atlanta.
The 1985 Rose Bowl Classic was cancelled when only two entries arrived
by the official deadline. In order to prompt a more appropriately timed
entry response, RBC III
was cancelled, and its future was uncertain. Undaunted, the Director
began more intense promotions encouraging awareness and regard for all
tournaments’ deadlines. By 1986, Rose Bowl Classic was back strong.
With promotional tours to tournaments in
DC, San Diego, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle, San Francisco and
Vancouver BC, the Rose Bowl tournament began to gain notoriety.
Learning from the best, Rose Bowl’s Director compiled a plethora of do’s
and don’ts for tournament operation. We gleaned information from Rick
Clarke of San Diego, Gene Sides of Washington DC, Daryl Carter of
Vancouver BC, Mal Garcia and Randy Peterson of San
John Hammett of Los Angeles, and Ron Sperry of Las Vegas (just to name a
By 1987, Tom began pulling in other individuals to learn the production
and operations of conducting a Rose Bowl tournament. A small
central core of Rose Bowl volunteers began taking responsibility for
In 1994, after over ten years of sole leadership, Tom reorganized the
tournament committee, delegating to a Tournament Coordinator the
responsibility to oversee the actual event operations, while Executive
Director Tom would promote, direct and conduct accounting. In
1994, Tom created a die for our current silver medallion awards.
The price of silver has fluctuated over the years, but has reached its
highest in decades in 2011 at over $41 an ounce.
1994 was also the
year that Tom came up with Pathetic Performance Insurance, the program
that helps give back entry fees through a random drawing to individuals
who don't win any money in the Singles, Doubles or Team categories.
In 1998, Executive
Director Tom decided that upon the 20th Anniversary Tournament in 2003,
he would retire as the The Executive Director and create a Board that
would help guide the event. The Board would appoint and direct a
Coordinator to run the annual event. The years leading up to the
20th Anniversary were festive with an average of 285-290 bowlers per
tournament. In June of 2003, well over 300 bowlers, fellow
tournament directors, and even the IGBO President, Sharon Stump, helped
Tom celebrate his retirement in high fashion and numerous salutes.
For the 25th
Anniversary Rose Bowl Classic, original Founder Tom Giel, the only
individual to have consecutively bowled in all Rose Bowl Classics, stepped in to co-coordinate the Silver
Celebration event with Tom Lutes, Jr. Troy Albin was the tournament registrar and
The Tournament took
great pride in introducing Mayor-elect Sam Adams, the first
elected, openly-gay Mayor for any major US city in the United States.
Sam, took time off from his family reunion to come by and greet the
bowlers just prior to the team event on Saturday May 31st.
On June 1st, the
Awards Party took place at the original establishment where the very
first Rose Bowl Classic banquet had been held - The Embers Avenue.
While it was good to be home for one year, it proved to be a very
crowded venue for so many bowlers, proving once again the old adage -
it's hard to go back home.
Since that time Tom and Tom continue to coordinate the Rose Bowl
Classic, as a team effort to regain the numbers of bowlers that began to
drop after 2003. In 2010, entrants returned to near 200.
Their goal is the 300 that Rose Bowl hosted back in 2003.
Saturday Night Events …
Weird Bowl to Boxer Bowl
In the early days of Rose Bowl Classic, all events were completed during
the day on Saturday, and awards banquets were held immediately on
Saturday evening to allow bowlers to party or return to their home
As the tournament grew beyond 200 bowlers, a Saturday night event
entitled the Weird Bowl was begun to provide some and entertainment for
those opting not to go to the downtown parade. The Weird Bowl survived
three years before it was retired. Everyone who wanted to get weird
In 1998, Kathy Cook approached the Director with a concept for a women’s
bowling event. With an average 30% participation by women in Rose Bowl
Classic, it was determined that a Saturday night event might just fill
that need. Somehow, the event evolved into the women wearing boxers
while they bowled.
After a survey at the 1998 Awards Banquet it was determined that a
majority of participants desired an organized Saturday night event to
party with their fellow bowlers. Lauren assumed responsibility for the
coordination of the event, and our committee determined that the event
might be more fun with the participation of the men bowlers. By 1999,
the event became known as the Boxer Bowl and attracted 96 bowlers. That
wasn’t all it attracted…
By 2000, the Boxer Bowl had become infamous around the globe. Website
photos from the 1999 event had been viewed by over 500 hits (according
to the counter). The event jumped to 120 bowlers and included a large
raffle with over $658 in fun prizes and cash.
Portland’s Rose Bowl Classic is always open to conduct business with
any company wishing to become a corporate sponsor. There are various
levels of sponsorship including the overall tournament, and special
feature sponsorship such as Singles, Doubles or Team, as well as High
Scratch Divisions for both Men and/or Women.
For further information about becoming a corporate sponsors please email
Steve Suss & The Embers Avenue were a corporate sponsor of Rose
Bowl Classic, since the tournament’s inception. Steve Suss honored
the tournament with moral and financial support beyond our
expectations. The Embers provided the Rose Bowl Classic with a venue
for its opening night Registration Party since the mid 80’s. It was
Steve Suss who first brought Coors and The Rose Bowl Classic into
COORS was our corporate sponsor for eleven years from 1992 through 2003.
1992, COORS became the corporate sponsor for Rose Bowl Classic. Each
year, Coors had representation at our annual Rose Bowl Classic Awards
Brunch. For our 2000 Rose Bowl Classic, a cheerful Cinde Dolphin of
Coors addressed the gathering of participants expressing Coors gratitude
to the Gay community for its growing acceptance of Coors products. We
thank our local distributors, Mt Hood Beverage for their coordination of
sponsorship with Coors.