Local archery programs get pop culture boost

WARRENVILLE – Swashbuckling pirates once swung swords and soldiers had their guns and grenades at the ready. But the quintessential hero’s weapon has received a facelift in recent years with the popularity of books and movies such as “The Hunger Games,” “Brave” and “The Avengers.”

The characters of Katniss, Merida and Hawkeye have helped to popularize archery, causing an increase in interest in local programs offering children and adults the chance to try their own hand at a bow and arrow.

“Last year, it went through the roof,” said Ken Walther, co-owner of Ten Ring Archery in Carol Stream.

For residents in Warrenville, West Chicago, Winfield and Batavia, Ten Ring Archery has offered classes at the Warrenville Park District for about six years that are open to members of all four park districts.

The program saw a rise in registration last summer that park district Athletic Supervisor Dave Weiner attributed not only to the newfound prevalence of archery in popular culture, but to the competitive archery featured at the Summer 2012 Olympics.

For Walther, it was the lack of archery programs that led him to start his own company with his wife, Renee, in 2003.

Their family had been involved in archery from a recreational and competitive standpoint and found there was an absence in the DuPage County area of a place for children to learn and practice archery.

The Walthers decided to share their knowledge with others by founding Ten Ring Archery, and the husband-and-wife team, along with the company’s other licensed instructors, now work with 14 park districts to teach archery classes at those facilities.

Today, the DuPage County Forest Preserve District also has an archery range in Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville that is free for public use, Walther said.

Weiner brought the archery program to the Warrenville Park District six years ago, after finding similar programs at other park districts had been successful.

The programs offer an alternative to traditional team sports for children and adults, Weiner said.

While pop culture may have brought new archers to the sport, participants have found other reasons to stay.

Warrenville residents Kristin Cabral and her daughter Brianna, 11, started taking an archery class this summer because of an interest piqued in Brianna by the movie “Brave.”

The archery class appealed to Cabral because it was something she and her daughter could do together, since the class is offered for those ages 8 and older. With other programs, Cabral often found herself sitting on the sidelines.

“She’d do [an activity], and I’d have to sit and watch, but now we can do it together,” she said.

The Cabrals plan to continue practicing with their own bow and arrow and target in their backyard. Cabral said she also expects to take additional classes with her daughter in the future.

Walther said the increased interest of last summer has continued this year, and he doesn’t expect it to dwindle any time soon.

“I think it’s just giving people a new activity, a new hobby in their lives,” Weiner said.