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People playing cornhole during the summer. Courtesy | Steve Herzberg

People are driving from Indiana, Ohio, and all over Michigan to downtown Hillsdale for one thing: cornhole. 

55 Below will be hosting a cornhole league this fall. The league will take place every Thursday night at 7 p.m. starting on Oct. 3. Reg­is­tration is open until Sept. 30 and is $50 per person. The league is set up to enter in teams of two. 

The inspi­ration for a cornhole league started with Hillsdale native Steven Herzberg. Orig­i­nally, he started out making 200 to 300 custom cornhole boards a year. But as that business became too much to handle, he decided to take his passion for cornhole in a dif­ferent direction. 

A few months ago, Herzberg started a Facebook page, “Pure Cornhole,” and held tour­na­ments throughout the summer at Vanity Ice Cream.

“It just blew up,” Herzberg said. “We went from having three people at our first tour­nament to having 20 to 30 people showing up.”

It got so popular that Hezberg hosted a cornhole tour­nament on Baw Beese Lake for the Fourth of July, com­plete with sponsors from the town sup­porting the event. 

Cornhole has also been on the rise nationally in recent years, even appearing on ESPN. The new pop­u­larity and Herzberg’s success caught the attention of Ben Baldwin and Elena Ledesma, the owner and manager of 55 below, respec­tively. They reached out to Herzberg to set up a league. 

“We are trying to get Thursdays up and running,” Ledesma said. “We are bringing the cornhole in to add some variety. People want to do stuff in the winter and we have a big enough space here that they can come in, drink some beers, play some cornhole, and not be out in the weather.”

The night will be filled with drink spe­cials, Thursday night football, music, and lots of com­pe­tition. Every week there will be dif­ferent ways to earn cash prizes. At the end of the tour­nament, the champion is expected to receive between $600 and $800. 

Ridge Morris, a res­ident of Hillsdale, played in some of Herzberg’s tour­na­ments this summer and looks forward to par­tic­i­pating again. Once a high-school athlete, Morris enjoys the com­pet­itive envi­ronment the league offers. 

Hillsdale College senior Jake Rhodes is excited to see a cornhole league forming in Hillsdale. 

“It is incor­po­rating a little bit of college stu­dents mixing with people from the town,” Rhodes said. “Another way to have fun.”

But it doesn’t just stop with cornhole. 55 Below is now hosting a college night every Thursday starting around 10 p.m., with more drink spe­cials and a DJ. In the future, the bar is looking to start a Wii bowling league and pos­sibly even a Just Dance com­pe­tition. 

55 Below is adding new, never seen before, attrac­tions to Hillsdale which Josh Stella, Hillsdale College senior, thinks is ben­e­ficial to all college stu­dents.

“It def­i­nitely helps to give more diversity for Hillsdale College stu­dents,” Stella said, “It is a way to get more people to go out and explore the town.” 

A cornhole league is def­i­nitely unique, and that is exactly the goal. 

“We are just trying to add variety to this town,” Ledesma said. “There is not a lot going on. We are giving everybody some­thing to do.”