Kristy Courtois, Green Bay, slides into some bowling pins during the inaugural Human Bowling tournament Saturday at Thornton’s Resort in the Town of Athelstane. An accompanying meat raffle raised money for the Town of Stephenson Volunteer Fire Department. <br> EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Kristy Courtois, Green Bay, slides into some bowling pins during the inaugural Human Bowling tournament Saturday at Thornton’s Resort in the Town of Athelstane. An accompanying meat raffle raised money for the Town of Stephenson Volunteer Fire Department.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
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ATHELSTANE - Here in Northeast Wisconsin, bowling is a popular winter sport among those looking to compete or to just have a good time with friends in the confines of a warm, climate-controlled environment.

But for some, traditional bowling just doesn't hold a lot of allure. Outdoor human bowling, however, is a totally different animal.

On Saturday afternoon, Thornton's Resort in Athelstane hosted its first-ever Human Bowling event in conjunction with a meat raffle to benefit the Town of Stephenson Volunteer Fire Department. 

A total of 26 two-person teams competed in the wildly bizarre form of bowling, in which bowlers also serve as the bowling ball.

A boisterous crowd numbering in the hundreds braved Saturday's single-degree temperatures to witness the spectacle. Many arrived on snowmobiles - their snowmobile suits doubling as ideal apparel for sliding down an icy lane on an inflatable tube or sled and knocking down the 3-foot inflatable bowling pins set up below.

While some of the participants and spectators may have been better lubricated than the bowling lane, a good time was had by all in attendance.

Sarah Seewald of Green Bay was one of the 52 human bowling competitors on hand for the event. The Coleman native celebrated her 28th birthday at Thornton's Resort - sliding down the lane and knocking down pins.

"My mom saw it in the paper and sent me a message saying 'Sarah, this is on your birthday,' and it was just a funny, ha-ha kind of thing, so I'm like 'hey, that actually sounds pretty fun,'" Seewald said.

"So I kind of let my mom plan my whole 28th birthday party," Seewald joked, adding that she was truly happy her parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, and fiancé all made the trip up to Athelstane to celebrate with her.

Asked if she was having a good time, Seewald said "Oh yeah!" adding that "drinking a little bit keeps you warm.

"I mean, it was pretty fun - how often do you get to go human bowling? It's all going for a good cause so we're pretty excited about that, and if we win something - great - it's a bonus," the birthday girl explained.

The mastermind behind Saturday's human bowling event was Thornton's Resort owner Kathy DePagter.

DePagter admitted she had never before seen human bowling, but she did hear about it being done somewhere else. DePagter was certainly pleased with the crowd that showed up to witness the action.

"This is our first year and my gosh we've got 26 teams - it's a really good turnout," she said.

DePagter said she posted the event on quite a few websites, and with the cost to bowl set at just $10 per team and a 100 percent cash payout, she soon received calls from interested participants from all over, some as far away as Milwaukee.

"Normally we do the Radar Runs/Fish-O-Ree out on the ice the last weekend in January, and that's supposed to be for the fire department - the raffles. But it seems like it's turned into more of a serious snowmobiling event - people weren't interested in the raffles, so we had to figure out another way to make money for our fire department," DePagter explained. 

At the end of the day, human bowling changed the game and assisted the Town of Stephenson Volunteer Fire Department at the same time - a win-win for everyone involved.

"I think just to have the (meat) raffle for the fire department (it) wouldn't have brought all these people," DePagter said with a smile. 

Asked if there would be a 2nd Annual Human Bowling event, she replied "Absolutely!"