“It just keeps getting bigger,” said organizer Chris Ivanoff. “There are people who come here despite having closer events that they could be attending.”
Ivanoff attributes the event’s success to a number of factors, including support from the Powell business community.
“We try and do little things to make the event more special,” he noted. “We put together a program, which a lot of places don’t, and that just gives it a special feel. We offer family discounts for entries, so if a family of four or five all want to come and participate, they can do it a little easier, and we try to do some special things each year.”
One of those special things this time was the presentation of a ceremonial yellow belt to Eric Morales during the opening ceremonies. Morales is a Lone Wolf Taekwondo student who has been diagnosed with muscular distrophy.
“We came up with a list of requirements, and Eric fulfilled them, so we awarded him the yellow belt at the start of the event,” Ivanoff said.
Among the criteria Eric had to fulfill were obtaining recommendations from his school teachers, writing a report on his sister Monserret’s involvement in taekwondo and painting a picture.
The ceremony took on a special life of its own when Eric revealed that his wish was to travel and meet Jerry Lewis, a comedian, actor and singer well-known for his fundraising Labor Day telethons designed to raise money for muscular distrophy research.
“After it was done, I had an instructor come over and hand me $50, saying he was moved by Eric’s wish and wanted to help make it possible,” Ivanoff said.
Additional donations came in and by day’s end, the tournament field and an estimated crowd of 500-600 specatators had pooled more than $600 toward helping Eric’s wish become reality.
“The cost of the trip is probably around $1,200, but then there are other costs involved due to health issues,” Ivanoff said, noting a foundation has been set up through First National Bank in Powell. “Eric is scheduled to have back surgery in Billings this week to help him sit up in his wheelchair better, and some of the money will go toward those expenses as well.”
Lone Wolf is working on plans for a May benefit to further assist Morales. Details on that event will be announced when they are finalized.
The championships also included competition in forms, breaking and Olympic-style sparring, where competitors achieve a point for landing a kick or punch to the body armor of their opponent. At higher divisions, points can also be scored for landing blows to the head gear of an opponent and an extra point is scored for incorporating a spinning technique into a successful strike.
“We divide the competitors into groups based on factors like gender, age, belt rank and experience,” Ivanoff said of the various competitions. “We had everything from 4-year-olds up to, I think, 48-year-olds this past weekend.”
Roughly 50 of the competitors were students of Lone Wolf Taekwondo, a turnout Ivanoff said was amazing for a community of Powell’s size.
“Normally, for a town of this size, you’d expect 20 or 25,” he said, noting the school also performed a choreographed display of techniques during the opening ceremonies.
Martial arts schools from Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho and Alberta, Canada, participated.
“It was a real crowd-pleasing event,” Ivanoff said. “I think everyone that came and watched was entertained by what the students did.”