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Smiley face Santa at Parkdale pickleball courts

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By Jacob Jackson

Smiley face Santa
Nel Osterwald is pictured with a smiley Santa at the Parkdale pickleball courts, where a 5-foot diameter smiley face is made out of broken pickle balls that area players have saved up all season for Osterwald. The outdoor courts are open from May through mid-October at Manistee Township Hall, 401 E. Parkdale Ave., in Manistee. Courtesy Photo/Nel Osterwald

This season, the Parkdale pickleball courts in Manistee Township feature a 5-foot diameter Santa adorned with a smiley face, a testament to the creativity and dedication of local players.

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is played on a court with a net, using a perforated plastic ball and a wooden or composite paddle. It is popular among people of all ages and skill levels, as it is easy to learn and fun to play.

Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum invented pickleball in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. They wanted to create a game that the whole family could enjoy. They improvised with ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball, and lowered the net to 36 inches. Also established the no-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, to prevent players from smashing the ball at the net.

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Since then, pickleball has grown in popularity and spread across the United States and the world. According to the USA Pickleball Association, there are over 3.3 million pickleball players and over 26,000 pickleball courts in North America. Pickleball is also played in countries such as Canada, Mexico, India, Japan, Singapore, and Spain.

The rules of pickleball are simple and easy to follow.

Players can play the game as singles or doubles, and they must perform the serve underhand. The ball must bounce once on each side before allowing volleys. The first side to score 11 points and lead by at least two points wins the game. For more details on the rules, you can visit the official website of the USA Pickleball Association.

Players craft the Santa sculpture from pickleballs collected throughout the season. Nel Osterwald conceived the idea for a smiley face created from these pickleballs in early November.

‘It turned out perfectly! The majority of the broken balls were already yellow,’ Osterwald expressed in an email to the News Advocate. ‘My skilled husband, Art, constructed a 5-by-5 foot PVC frame and expertly cut 174 balls in half using his bandsaw. I covered the frame with white exterior mesh fabric, affixed the half balls to the mesh, and crafted and attached the eyes and smile.’

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Her husband suggested incorporating the Santa hat, she mentioned.

The Santa sculpture is not only a festive decoration, but also a symbol of the community spirit and the joy of pickleball. Osterwald said that the pickleball players at Parkdale are like a family, who support each other and have fun together.

‘We love pickleball and we love each other,’ she said. ‘We wanted to share our happiness with everyone who passes by.’

Manistee Township Hall, located at 401 E. Parkdale Ave. in Manistee, hosts the outdoor courts, open from May through mid-October. The courts are free and open to the public, and anyone can join the pickleball club that meets regularly. If you are interested in learning more about pickleball or joining the club, you can contact Nel Osterwald at [email protected].”

Swampscott’s Phillips Park pickleball courts do not meet the required net standards.

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