Every New Year's day, the Mangled Mallet Croquet Club of Vermont sets up wickets in Burlington's Oakledge Park.
The friendly competition is in its 20th year. "It's not New Year's without this game," said competitor Jim McHugh.
This year, a layer of fresh snow blankets the playing court, forcing competitors to dig out before taking their next shot.
"This is the deepest conditions we've ever had and you got to play the air game because normally you just hit a ball along the ground and you can't with a foot and a half of powder," explained competitor Jim Gribben.
"This actually makes it more of what we intended out of this game, which is to make something that's insanely difficult and competitive," added McHugh.
The game began years ago as a quirky and entertaining way to ring in the New Year. The club played regularly back then during the summer months, and now play about a half dozen times per year.
But now the game means more than winning and losing.
"Getting together with friends, in particular, one who is no longer with us: Kathleen," explained Gribben.
Social worker Kathleen Smith was brutally murdered in her Burlington home in 2010. Her friends now dedicate the first game of every year to her memory. "We play with her mallets she gave me," said Gribben.
"It's nice to remember her and other friends that we've had who are not with us today," added McHugh.
As daylight fades New Year's Day, these competitors raise their mallets one last time in remembrance of their former competitor.
They'll be back, same time, same place, next year.
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