Keeping the crowds in the game

Classic in the Country brings Mast back home

By KEVIN LYNCH Staff Writer

BERLIN — For one weekend a year, Esther Mast puts her life on hold to provide entertainment for the crowds at the end of quarters, at halftime and between games of the Classic in the Country Challenge.

Mast was a player on the Hiland Hawks the first year of the Classic 13 years ago, when the games were the only entertainment.

Since then, Mast, a 2006 Hiland graduate, has led the entertainment teams for every Classic in the Country but one.

“I missed one year when I was in college,” she said. “I was busy with sorority recruitment and couldn’t make it.”

But the show went on without her.

A corporate recruiter for Kroger, Mast takes the weekend off every year to come home for Classic in the Country.

“I live and work in Cincinnati now. My fiance lives down there,” Mast said. “I come home for the weekend. I take days off work and I take a half-day off after to recover.

“I enjoy seeing everyone. I enjoy my team. We have such a blast,” Mast continued. “It’s fun to get the crowd excited and into the game.”

The halftime entertainment includes variations of games like Twister, Person-to-Person, Musical Chairs and a cow milking contest.

“We have quite a list of games and ideas we’ve done through the years that we know work,” Mast said. “We get together and meet around Thanksgiving or Christmas when I come home for the holiday. We meet and talk about new game ideas we can do. This year we’re testing out a number of new ideas.

“We’re trying to do different things between quarters to try and keep things fresh,” she added.

She remembers a dance contest one year when a kid from West Holmes danced off against out-of-towners.

“The West Holmes crew was here and provided lots of support,” she said. “That was incredible. It was a lot of fun. Another one I remember was when we did an Amish dress up like American Model, and Dylan (Kaufman) and Brady (Arnold) walking the runway all dressed up in makeup and everything. Then Dylan ended it with a slam dunk.”

There have been some events that didn’t go over too well, but she quickly puts those out of her mind.

The current entertainment crew has been working together for the past eight years and they have enjoyed working together.

“The first five or six years, we’d add another person every year, a high school person,” Mast said. “Once we got this crew together, I told Coach (Schlabach) we didn’t need anybody else. They’re well-trained. They really own it. I’m so proud of my team.”

Eric Miller, a 2008 Hiland graduate, has been helping with the entertainment team since the beginning.

“The thing that keeps it exciting is seeing familiar faces, new faces, the interaction with different games, that’s what keeps it exciting for me,” Miller said. “We all have our little jobs to do. Esther coordinates things.”

Inflatable basketball and inflatable Randy the Referee are two of the mainstays that provide entertainment.

“We have two people do Randy and the ball. They do two-game rotations,” Mast said. “That really takes a lot of energy to do that.”

Mast says she enjoys coming home every year for the Classic.

“This is my time to see a lot of people I don’t see throughout the year,” she said. “I don’t get home much anymore. It’s great to see everyone.”