Cornhole, that classic tailgating activity, comes with big stakes this week at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. Through July 31, players from across the country will compete in Bradenton at the American Cornhole Organization Championships for the cornhole crown. The five-day event, which began on July 26, consists of events for both pros and the backyard bean bag tossers. Not only will local players be able to join in competition for prizes, but spectators and families can also enjoy vendors, player meet-and-greets, and more—all with free admission. 

 The main events for the professionals include singles and doubles for women, men, seniors, juniors and coed teams. The ultimate winner will be awarded $50,000, sponsored by Gold Coast Eagle Distributing of Sarasota and Bud Light. To finish off the event, Saturday, July 31—a.k.a. National Cornhole Day—will be a celebration of the sport.

For the players in Bradenton this week, cornhole is much more than a backyard bean bag toss. Reigning women's champion Maggie Geiger says the best thing about cornhole is that anyone can play. She's playing to defend her title this week in Bradenton; she started playing when her dad needed a partner. He told her to see how she liked it, and that first throw brought her a long way.

"After my dad started taking me to tournaments, I started to see some potential and wanted to keep going. I wanted to push myself to see how far I could go," she says. 

As a female cornhole player, Geiger says she used to stand out, but that's changed. "It’s different being a female player now than it was five years ago. The women have become very competitive and can play right along side the guys," says Geiger. "They know not to take us so lightly now."

The American Cornhole Organization Championships will take place at Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd. in Palmetto through July 31. For more information, click here

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