Round One of this year’s BLOW HARD Tournament kicks off in Grand Haven tomorrow morning, with excited spectators expected to crowd all sixteen Ottawa County neighborhoods playing host to one of the Tournament’s designated Leaf-Blowing Courses. The five-day competition, now in its ninth year, features 72 teams competing for a $150,000 Grand Prize, and will conclude on Monday afternoon, with the BLOW HARD Finals taking place along a 1.5 mile course through central Grand Haven. Forty-two-year-old Grand Haven resident Barry Gillespie, who was awarded the amateur position on this year’s Black & Decker Team with a victory at last weekend’s qualifying event in Saugatuck, is excited to finally blow with the pros. “I’ve been training and blowing leaves in amateur competitions for five years”, says Barry, “It’s grueling, and dangerous sometimes, but I can’t wait to get on a course and pit my blowing skills against the big boys.”
Ed Nortonson, Chairman of the National Leaf-Blowing Association (NLBA), expects BLOW HARD 2014 to be the biggest and best tournament so far. “Fans can expect all the usual thrills of watching these athletes race to push thousands of pounds of leaves through neighborhood obstacle courses”, assures Nortonson, “But we’ve added many new activities to this year’s event, from Saturday’s ‘Autograph & Selfie Session‘ at the Community Center, where fans can mingle with professional leaf-blowers, to Sunday’s ‘Don’t Blow Your Diet’ 5k charity-walk and leaf-raking exhibition sponsored by The Lakeshore League of Women Nutritionists. With the NLBA’s new BLOW HARD App for phones and tablets, fans can find schedules, get course-maps and directions, view video highlights from each round, and register to win tickets to Monday’s Final Blowdown Showdown.”
In addition to the attraction of watching intense competition between highly-skilled leaf-blowing teams, BLOW HARD has also become an important event for lawncare manufacturers to show off new models of leaf-blowers and demonstrate prototypes for future blowers. While local homeowners and lawncare professionals ogle the best and newest blowers from sponsor-companies like Toro, Black & Decker, Makita, Hitachi and others, spectator-anticipation and excitement is reaching a fever-pitch this year over rumors that Team Dyson could literally blow away the competition by finally unveiling their BJ4000 Leaf-Blowing Cannon during BLOW HARD 2014.
Dyson, the vacuum cleaner manufacturer whose patented Cyclone Technology makes it better known for sucking than blowing, has long been rumored to be developing a patented Tsunami Technology and applying the company’s award-winning engineering prowess and design acumen to a leaf-blower that could be a game-changer in the lawncare industry. While most stock backpack blowers blow air from 150 to 200 mph (and upwards of 250 mph in professional competitions), Dyson’s BJ4000 is rumored to blow at more than 500 mph, while weighing less than half the average backpack unit currently on the market, creating an extra buzz this year amongst spectators who all hope to witness this potential leaf-blowing spectacle firsthand.
Round One matches begin tomorrow morning at 8:00 am. Attendance is free during the first three rounds, and tickets for rounds four and five are available online and from most downtown Grand Haven merchants. Public Safety Officials are urging spectators to respect marked-off blow-course boundaries for their own safety amidst extremely high winds and swirling debris, and recommend that young children wear goggles or safety-glasses as additional precaution against the inadvertent injuries invariably inflicted on a number of unlucky spectators each year during the Tournament.