Flipping out: Newlyweds compete for bragging rights (video)
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PORT LAVACA - The Saturday morning downpour didn't dampen the spirits of the Flip Flop Festival attendees.
Mother Nature turned on the waterworks, after all, and the Calhoun County residents remained patient under the shelter.
A calm, whispering breeze along the Bayfront Peninsula came after the rain. Birds soared in the gray skies while the humans relaxed in the sand. Speakers blared the sounds of Rihanna and Tim McGraw at the same time. People could sample a music buffet.
While some individuals began the Labor Day weekend festivities with a cold beverage, Casey Summey practiced in her grandmother's backyard to reclaim the title of Fling Flong champion. Her biggest threat to victory was the man she exchanged vows with - her husband.
"I brought my own competition to the game and he beat me," she said, referring to Lance Summey.
Casey Summey, 25, of Waco, settled for silver, when her flip flop landed a little shy of her spouse. She won first place two years ago, before her other half started attending.
Lance Summey, 29, said he is up to the challenge every year to get one more mark in the "win" column. "We're going to make this an annual thing," he said.
The newlywed couple was among a handful of participants to enter the contest. In this game, there were no categories or handicaps given. It's every man, woman or child for himself or herself.
"People of all ages can come and fling their flong," said Melissa Sterling, a director of the Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce.
Organizers created the unconventional contest, to kick off the city's annual event. Sterling said the flip flop theme ties into the city's billboard that displays someone's feet on the beach, in, of course, flip flops.
The day was filled with an array of activities, horseshoe tournaments, cutest baby contests, live music, and folklorico dancing.
Chris Wall, the chamber president, said the event is a fundraiser with a purpose.
"It's great to have family fun, but we want to do this for scholarships," he said. Each year some Calhoun County high school seniors are awarded money to defray college expenses.
Partners Chuck Lewis, 50, and Jason McBride, 39, won $250 for winning the horseshoe tournament.
McBride attributed their focus to their military training. "We're good Marines," he said. "One shot, one kill, no losses."
Jaime Hysquierdo left the tournament with a fourth-place title. Almost didn't count for the fierce competitor.
"We did pretty good. We haven't been practicing all year," he said.
The 31-year-old Port Lavaca native wanted a shot of redemption in the less-intense flip competition. He stepped away from the registration table to grab a bite, and by the time he came back to the grass arena, the competition had concluded.
Lady Luck was not on the former running back's side; Hysquierdo walked away from the festival empty handed, but with a full stomach.
"That's OK. I'll be back next year," he said.
The flip flop contest lasted about two minutes. Each participant had to fling his or her summer sandal off their foot.
And as fate would have it, history repeated itself. Lance Summey beat his wife for the second year in a row.
"I beat him all day in practice and I choked during game time," Casey Summey said.
The couple posed for a picture after receiving their sparkling prize, a glitter-dipped trophy of a flip flop. His was gold; hers silver to symbolize their places in the competition.
"These make great conversation starters," said Lance Summey. Their symbols of victory sit on the mantle in their living room.
"Most people have lamps or books. We have these," his wife said, pointing to the prize.
The Summeys have been lucky in love and in the game, but some of their competition will be preparing to knock them off the throne.
"I'm going to win next year. I was listening to the champ give pointers," said Gloria Phillips, a first-time attendee, who plans to practice all year.
The 68-year-old Blum native came to the Crossroads specifically for the one-day festival. She saw the advertisement in a magazine and drove for six hours to have a weekend getaway. This trip helped the mother of three as she grieved for her son, Jeff Anderson, who died four years ago, almost to the day.
"He's watching over me," said Phillips. The great grandmother of 13 said she will channel some divine inspiration to receive the coveted prize in future contests.
Casey Summey said she had a more deceptive strategy to win.
"I have to take him out of the competition. Maybe I'll give him a bad burger the night before," she said, laughing.