January 23, 2019

Canada, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, Honduras, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Puerto Rico, Scotland and Sweden. Those are the countries that have been represented at the Kelly McGillis Classic International Women and Girls Flag Football Championships and World Challenge Game held annually each year in Key West.

For the 28th edition of the tournament — the week’s worth of festivities started on Tuesday, with the gridiron action beginning on Friday — the International Women’s Flag Football Association (IWFFA) is welcoming newcomers India and Afghanistan to the festivities that include so much more that just football.

Open to the public, with volunteers still needed to be part of the chain gang and other responsibilities throughout the week, Tuesday’s flag football clinic for beginners kick off the activities as new players to the sport learned kicking, punting, running and pass plays, zone defense, positions basic understanding of IWFFA rules. That night, the tournament namesake made her first appearance when she offered training for beginner to experienced actors, to help each participant perform their best monologue for a final live performance tonight at the BottleCap from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Participants are encouraged to create their own monologues, sharing about personal experiences, whether they be heart wrenching, happy or painful, about any subject matter,” said tournament director Diane Beruldsen, which also hosted arm wrestling at Irish Kevin’s on Tuesday. “The public is invited to join — bring your own monologue you have written or a published one. Length should be no longer than two minutes.”

Today there is a women’s officiating clinic at the Wickers Field complex, from 9 a.m. to noon, with a $50 registration fee, which includes membership to Female Officials Flag Football Association (FOFFA) as well as IWFFA Certification — after passing the officiating exam.

Before the monologues begin tonight, there will also be a series of guest speakers from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Palm Garden of Key West Library, which will include Dallas Cowboy cheerleader Heather Marley-Allen and former city commissioner and IBM manager Margaret Romero, as well as international speakers from Africa, Afghanistan, Egypt and Pakistan.

“This year’s tournament brings a group of female speakers who will enlighten our listeners with their experiences in life,” said Beruldsen. “Empowerment, tragedy, success, vision, leadership and difference will be the focus with a questions and answer session to follow.”

To make sure there is also a bit of excitement tonight, the toilet relay race will be held starting at 9 p.m. from Shanna Key. Teams of four will run around the streets of Key West for a roll of toilet paper, get the receipt and exact change and run cross the finish line first to win. Championship team wins awards and prizes.

On Thursday the focus turns to the on-field action, as an equipment clinic will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at George Mira Field, before the Opening Ceremonies take place at Lands End Marina from 4 to 6 p.m. with Mayor Teri Johnston, Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover, McGillis and other dignitaries and representatives from international countries welcoming the teams. as well as a parade of athletes who will travel Lazy Way, Green Street, Front Street and Duval Street ending on United. McGillis will also be speaking at part two of the Women Speaker Series, as well as Fantasy Fest Queen Bernadette Restivo and women from India and El Salvador.

The Tournament Games begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday with games on simultaneous fields taking place, as well as halftime activities on the main field, at the Wickers Complex.

“Loose Women can still sign up to play,” said Beruldsen.

Despite the gridiron action turning up, the off-field activities do not ceases as the Fairvilla Sexy Games will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday as well as the None Dance Contest at Island Dogs.

The girls join the women on the field of play Saturday starting at 8 a.m. with crowning of Ms. IWFFA that night at Fat Tuesday’s.

“Teams compete in very strange games: eating crackers and whistle a tune, team life saver relay, Kelly’s toilet plunger game and more. After a variety of crazy team challenges, the winner will be crowned as: 2019 Ms. IWFFA-Key West.

The Playoffs and World Challenge Game X, scheduled for an 6 p.m. kickoff on Sunday, will conclude the football action, with the award party scheduled that night at Turtle Kraals.

Even though the games conclude on Sunday, the IWFFA continues its growth as the second International Women’s Flag Football Conference will be held Monday, Jan, 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bernstein Park as well as a Bicycle Tour around Key West next Tuesday, Jan. 29.

“India, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, El Salvador, Sweden and United States will join our panel to discuss issues concerning the sport for females around the world,” Beruldsen said about the second annual conference that has helped grow the sport to 16 countries worldwide.

For information on the events, contact Beruldsen at 305-896-8678 or visit http://www.iwffa.com/kmc2019.

jwcooke@keysnews.com