2008-06-27 / Beauty in the Backyard

Lineberry family celebrates 33 years of Olympic- sized fun

Contributed by Virginia Lineberry Sprinkle

Virginia Lineberry Sprinkle (center) with members of the 2007 host family. Virginia Lineberry Sprinkle (center) with members of the 2007 host family. Relatives and friends of Virginia Lineberry Sprinkle will gather in Columbia, June 27- 29, 2008, for the 33rd annual Lineberry Olympics. The Lineberry Olympics are named for Fred and Olive Lineberry, Sprinkle's parents, who instilled a deep sense of family during many holiday gatherings and fun weekends in their Jonesville, NC, home.

Since 1976, the Lineberrys have gathered annually on a summer weekend to catch up on family news while competing against each other in wacky events that are designed to handicap even a professional athlete. The Lineberry's had six children, so there are six events each year, six rings on the family's Olympic logo, and the games are hosted on a six- year rotation by each of the siblings and their immediate families.

The 2008 host family includes Virginia Lineberry Sprinkle; Terry, Jim, Brad and Meredith Harbuck (Redondo Beach, Calif.); Larry, Lynn, Brantley, and Connor Sprinkle (Columbia); Jason, Krista, and Reagan Leopold (Charleston, S.C.); Ginger and Ivan Rey (Batesburg, S.C.); Teahnna, Marina, and Tony Suriano (Sherman Oaks, Calif.).

Each year, approximately 80 family members and friends arrive from their "training camps" in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Washington, DC and California, intent on having some seriously silly fun.

Wacky or not, the competitive fervor is Olympian to its core, with contestants vying for gold, silver, or bronze medals, and the chance to win the overall trophy in his/her respective age group. The Lineberrys have even designed a perpetual family trophy, which is presented to the individual 12 years or older with the highest overall score.

The homemade trophy is a 10- pound, steeple- shaped wooden structure engraved with the names of each year's individual winner and a metal cup that holds a candle at the top. Similar to the renowned flame of the "real" Olympic games, the candle is lit at the opening ceremony of each year's Lineberry Olympic games. The overall winner gets to house the trophy for a year and is responsible for bringing it to the next gathering. In keeping with the satirical nature of these games, the winner is also responsible for getting his/her own name engraved on the trophy.

Each of the six families is responsible for getting together with his or her family to concoct an event for adults and children. Most games require the contender to combine as much strategy, luck, and old- fashioned treachery as athletic skill to earn a gold, silver, or bronze medal to take home.

Each event is named after one of the Lineberry siblings. For instance, the annual version of a wet 20- yard dash is called the "Sprinkle Splash" after Virginia Lineberry Sprinkle. This year's Sprinkle Splash will involve carrying a wet sponge while moving a soccer ball through an obstacle course, then squeezing the remaining water in the sponge into a small- mouthed container. The three contenders with the fastest times and most water will win the gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Individual games could involve picking up marbles in a bucket of ice water with toes and then transferring them to a small coffee can.

Not to be outdone by the winners, losers have a chance of taking home a trophy as well. Masterminded all in good fun to recognize the most outstanding loser of the games, the Loser Trophy started as a trash can lid trimmed with pink boa feathers but eventually became an ugly clock found at a garage sale.

The Lineberry Olympics' official logo (designed by Susan Lineberry, Hampton, Va.) incorporates six interconnecting rings and lines to represent the six children of Fred and Olive Lineberry and their descendants. Cornelia Lineberry Vaughn quilted a Lineberry Olympics wall hanging that rotates annually to family members in order of their birth date.

There will be 75 Lineberry family members present at this year's Olympics, ranging in age from 16 months to 85 years, joined by friends as well. Fred and Olive Lineberry would be proud.

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