Sweetheart Invitational

For nearly 25 years, the Sweetheart Invitational bowling tournament has brought together gay and straight bowlers alike in the spirit of competition and giving. The event attracts bowlers from all over the northeast (including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia), as well as Michigan, Seattle, WA, and Canada. The tournament – one of the largest LGBT sporting events in New England and the only internationally-recognized sporting event in the state of Connecticut – has supported many charities over the years, including the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, Our Companions (a no-kill animal shelter), True Colors, AIDS Project New Haven and Leeway House in New Haven. Over the past four years alone, the Sweetheart Invitational donated approximately $37,000 to its beneficiaries.


The tournament generates funds for its charities not only through a portion of the entry fee paid by bowlers, but through events such as Beer Bashes (held monthly at Chez Est in Hartford), Cosmic Disco Bowling at Wallingford Bowl (home to the tournament), Pasta Nights at Chez Est and 168 York Street, business sponsors, program guides, raffle tickets and personal donations.


The name of the Sweetheart Invitational was inspired by its longstanding tradition of being held each Valentine’s Day weekend. Each year, the tournament utilizes a different theme and modifies its logo to reflect that. Since 2009, the one unchanging aspect of the logo from year-to-year is the heart itself, formed by two clasped hands to symbolize unity. In 2013, the theme will be My Bloody Valentine, following Peace Love & Bowling in 2012 and Just Married: Marriage is Sweet in All Forms (saluting Connecticut as one of only a handful of states to offer same-sex marriage) in 2011, The Sweetheart 500: Racing for Love (which took place the same weekend as the Daytona 500) in 2010, Leather & Lace (symbolizing the unity of men and women) for the tournament’s 20th anniversary in 2009 and Camp Sweetheart in 2008.


The Sweetheart Invitational committee is led by co-directors Jason Barnes and Steve Shura, along with committee members Al Vernale, Brian Thomas, Paul Sofia, Phill Majewksi, Doug Meister, Stan Zarnoch, Tony Navarro, Anne Gorman, Brian Mullen, Dino Nowak and Ken Hunsinger. For more information, see www.sweetheartinvitational.com.