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Locally invented lawn games

Whether it’s a family picnic or a Bills tailgate, it’s no secret that Western New Yorkers get pretty competitive.

Charlie Sciandra has enjoyed a unique perspective on the region’s fervor for games. As a co-founder of KanJam, Sciandra watched the game grow from a local passion launched in North Tonawanda to a global gaming phenomenon. Sciandra believes KanJam wouldn’t be what it is today without homegrown support.

“It’s because people here are so enthusiastic about their sports and outdoor activities, and we have a limited amount of time that we can do things outdoors in the summer,” says Sciandra. “So when you get that opportunity, they’re so energetic, so charged by it. When I heard people were playing KanJam for eight hours at a time, I knew we had something special.”

Now owned by private-equity backed Wild Sports, KanJam has added several variations of the game over the years, including an indoor version and another for the pool. Sciandra recently added Hard Count to his stable of games, a combination of KanJam and Ultimate mixed with football.

Locally invented lawn games | Buffalo Magazine

Since it launched in the 1990s, KanJam has expanded into licensed products, indoor and pool versions, and the latest game — Hard Count — a KanJam/Ultimate/football hybrid.

They’ve also signed licensing agreements with pro sports leagues and entertainment brands, along with individual deals with athletes including NFL star and Western New York’s own Rob Gronkowski.

It’s almost remarkable that a game so simple — originally called “garbage can Frisbee” when they launched in the 1990s — could turn into such a huge franchise.

“The key to the game is how interactive it is. The big part of KanJam is the instant-win slot, which is what helped to get me the patent for the game. It’s never over until it’s over,” says Sciandra. “Anyone can play the game regardless of their athletic ability.”

A relative newcomer to the outdoor game scene is First-N-Ten, a football-themed game launched just over a year ago by Buffalonians Mike and Jean Wolf. Similar to KanJam, competitors are stationed at opposite ends of the yard, tossing rings at — and through — a set of goalposts. Direct contact with the post is worth one point, a ring through the uprights is worth three, and a ringer earns five points. The first team to reach 21 points is the winner.

They started with 1,500 units, and entered this spring with 3,200 on order. Retailing for $49.99, First-N-Ten has been shipped to 30 states and several Canadian provinces, and will be available at 75 Wegmans stores across five states beginning this fall.

First-N-Ten was also added to the lineup of games at the Yard Olympics 8 in early July, part of the Yard Games World Championship in Auburn, New York. The one-day event featured nine popular games including KanJam, Cornhole and Ladder Golf.

After taking three years to create, the Wolfs have seen first-hand how fans are enjoying First-N-Ten, even getting the chance opportunity to interact with some tailgaters at a Bills game last season.

“We were wandering the parking lots and came across a group playing our game,” said Mike Wolf. “It was the first time we’d ever seen someone playing it, and thought that was over the top, out of this world.”

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