By Melody Vallieu
He found something he likes … and he’s sticking to it.
Karl Dearwester’s family owned and has been part of county fairs in the area for 123 years with the cane toss game. For 56 of those, Karl Dearwester has been there.
The game was originated and designed by his grandfather, Wilson C. “Bull” Dearwester; sold to his uncle, Harry Dearwester; and again sold to Karl Dearwester.
The Belletonaine resident said he began helping at the Miami County Fair when he was just 5 years old, helping his father with the “Guess Your Weight” game and his grandfather with the cane toss game.
Karl Dearwester said he generally attends 18 fairs in 22 weeks throughout summer and loves the atmosphere.
“It’s where you see the people from Main Street and the rural community come together for a week out of the year,” he said. “It’s Americana. To some, this is their King’s Island or Cedar Point.”
Karl Dearwester said he has seen four and five generations of families return to the fair.
“I like the tradition of grandma and grandpa coming and bringing their grandkids and doing the same thing they did at the fair as children because it’s just tradition.”
Karl Dearwester said Tipp Novelty Co. of Tipp City used to make the canes for the cane toss game, but stopped making them two years after he bought the cane toss game. He said the company then sold the cane making equipment to him, at their suggestion. He has been making the canes himself since about 1992, he said.
He said he makes about 144,000 canes per year — mostly for the cane toss game.
“It’s unique. How often do you go someplace and find a cane?” Karl Dearwester said.
He said his grandfather approached the fair board about the game 123 years ago when midway entertainment wasn’t well known. It has since become a staple of the fair, according to Dearwester.
While the price of throwing the rings in order to win a walking stick has changed, the design of the game has not. Dearwester said he lives by his grandfather’s theory of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He said he has updated and repaired the game, however, not major changes in the design have been changed in the 123 year history.
Prices when the game was started were one ring for a penny, seven rings for a nickel and 15 rings for a dime. Today Dearwester offers three rings for $1, 10 rings for $2 and 30 rings for $5.
“What’s nice about it is people from 4 to 94 can do it,” Karl Dearwester said. “It’s simple. It’s honest. It’s one of the most honest games ever built.”