Towering ambition in Tracy

TRACY – Jenga players assembled at The Caboose restaurant and bar in Tracy on Friday to build a tower of Jenga and a chance to win a trip for four to a Twins Game.

Jenga is a game played with 54 rectangular blocks. Then name comes from a Swahili word meaning “to build.”

Players start with the blocks laid in courses of three, each course at right angles to the one below. Players take turns removing a block from a lower course at least two from the top using only one hand, and laying them at the top to make the tower taller. All without toppling the tower.

Players at The Caboose used the Giant Jenga set with blocks measuring 3-by-3-by-11 inches. Deejay Terry Nelson set up the tower.

Nelson runs Jenga tournaments all over the state.

“I’d been deejay-ing about 10 years and I was burned out on karaoke,” Nelson said. “I brought this to Brian’s Supper Club in Fulda and 48 people entered. Now every place I’ve been to they’ve rescheduled at least two more times.”

Nelson brought the Jenga game to Tracy last November, where it proved popular enough that Caboose owner John Edwards agreed to organize a tournament to take place in five rounds.

The next four rounds will be on February 8, March 7, March 21, and the final round on March 29.

“First prize is four tickets to a Twins game,” Edwards said. “We take you up and buy you dinner and finger food. Second prize is $100. Third prize is a $50 gift certificate to The Caboose.”

Players can compete one-on-one or in teams of two. The game starts out easily enough, but gets nerve-wracking to watch as players tease blocks out of the ever-higher tower, trying not to bring the tottering edifice down.

Sammy Odom came with her friend Larissa Hansen to play against her brother Matt Odom and his friend Jordan Rolling.

“We played Giant Jenga once last time,” Sammy Odom said.

Brother Matt was watching TV on Friday evening when Rolling called and told him he needed a partner for the night.

“I played last time,” Rolling said. “It’s definitely exciting, especially the part when you get down to the end.”

Toward the end the tower was tall enough Hansen had to stand on a chair to place the block on the top of the swaying tower that rested on a single block on the bottom.

“Not that way!” her partner screamed, but the tower held.

Until Matt Odom tried to pull one more block and the giant edifice came crashing down to the sound of the girls screaming in triumph and the applause of the audience.

“The nice thing about Jenga is, it’s simple, it’s fun, and nobody has any real advantage over anyone else,” Nelson said.