WATERLOO — On Wednesday, pool players from all over Iowa showed up in downtown Waterloo, hoping for their big break.
“He’s pretty good,” Angela Flaherty said of her boyfriend, Darrell Edwards, who’s playing in the State Pool Championships at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center. The tournament began Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
Flaherty and Edwards drove from Des Moines, joining more than 1,000 other visitors who converged on Waterloo mid-week.
“We got up at 4:15 a.m.; we had to get here for his first game at 8,” Flaherty said.
On Thursday morning, players filled both floors of the convention center, waiting for their turn at one of 138 pool tables.
“We try to keep everybody happy and having fun,” said Ron Ries, president of the Iowa Operators of Music & Amusements, which organizes the event. “We like to keep things flowing.”
To get to the state tournament, players had to win their local tournaments.
“This is a very meaningful tournament for him,” Flaherty said of Edwards. “He grew up playing pool with his dad, who passed away last year.”
While the telltale sounds of billiards cracked inside the halls, the clink of ice in glasses rang out at the cash bars situated in the first- and second-floor lobbies.
“Bloody Marys are their breakfast, and the pickle is the fiber,” said a busy bartender, who didn’t want to be identified. “We can’t keep up.”
In fact, she noted, the bars briefly ran out of Crown Royal whiskey, also a favorite among the crowd.
Adjacent to the bar was a massage therapist, offering respite for tense, sore backs and shoulders. Vendors selling billiards supplies and accessories dotted the lobbies as well.
Action wasn’t limited to inside the convention center, though. Nearby eateries have been busy since Wednesday morning.
“Because of the nature of the tournament, we are steady throughout the day,” said Jorge Santiago, head chef at Basal Pizza and Cibo Street Food Bar, located across the street from the convention center. “We get a big crush at lunch and dinner, but we were prepared for it. We knew what to expect from last year.”
Also busy is the staff at Ramada, the host hotel, where rooms are full and food buffet lines move quickly.
“We’re all sold out,” said Yvonne Knox, front desk manager. “We are rockin’ and rollin’.”