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Friday, July 1, 2005 1:27:16 PM - Monroe Ohio



The Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival, set for July 22, 23, 24 at Smith Park in downtown Middletown will offer guests a taste of more than the sport of hot air ballooning. Keeping with the goal of bringing unusual and entertaining additions to the Ohio Challenge festival schedule, youth and adult Cincinnati area rugby teams, will demonstrate their rough and tumble sport at the Smith Park site.


While guests are awaiting the launch of hot air balloons which often are delayed due to high winds, they can enjoy a much different sportóRugby. Not well known to Midwestern people more accustomed to football, baseball, soccer and basketball, rugby demonstration games will both entertain and educate the sports enthusiast. 


Games are set for Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm each day.  Saturdayís games will pit Cincinnati menís clubs in a contest on the center festival area. Sundayís contests will see Cincinnati area high school rugby clubs competing.


Since 2002 when youth rugby clubs first sprang up in the Cincinnati area, the sport has grown rapidly in southwestern Ohio as well as across the country.  There are now 35 registered high school boys clubs and 4 girls clubs in Ohio, with 1,500 clubs now in the USA.


At Harvard University on May 5, 1874, the first recorded rugby game was played on American soil.  Nobody seems to remember who won the match between Harvard and Montrealís McGill University at Cambridge, Mass. but it did spark an interest in the sport. Popularity grew and the U.S. won Olympic  rugby gold medals in 1920 and 1924. But then the Olympics tossed out rugby as a medal sport and interest waned in the U.S.  Rugby was mostly ignored in the U.S. until the 1970s when it had a rebirth. Now the USA Rugby national team is nicknamed the Eagles and the USA is back in world competition. Local interest is growing as well.


The Ohio Challenge, with primary sponsor Mid-First Credit Union, is hosted by the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton. 


For more information, call 513-259-3796 or visit

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