The Clay County Popcorn Festival will offer a wide variety of activities, but the YMCA has added something out of the ordinary to the agenda. On Oct. 4, Brazil's first powerlifting competition is scheduled to take place at the Forest Park Bandshell. Weigh-in and registration will begin at 10 a.m. and lifting starts at 11.
Peggy Berry, 53, of Brazil, began lifting weights "as a stress reliever for my legal practice." She regularly visited the place the lifters called "the dungeon," the windowless free weight room at the old YMCA.
Soon, Tom McCullough persuaded her to get involved in competitions. He helped Berry develop a program. She credits him for much of her success, saying that he "really made me the lifter that I am today."
In 1992, Berry and McCullough traveled to Madrid, Spain, where they represented the United States in an international powerlifting meet. They also put on an exhibition at the World's Fair in Seville,, Spain. Berry, the only female participant, describes the crowd there as being "pretty aghast" because "women don't do things like that over there."
She started lifting in meets in the U.S. one week after returning from Spain. She was the only woman on an 11-member team that went to the powerlifting regionals in Spencer that year. She points out that 11 was "a lot of lifters for a town the size of Brazil."
Since then, Berry has "been everywhere for meets," including Texas, St. Louis, Nashville and many other locations. And she has often been the sole female competitor. She claims that she "coaxed a couple people into a meet or two," but they showed no lasting interest. She says that there are more women than there used to be. There were 10 women at the Indiana State Fair competition in August, but she "would like to have more gals lift."
While many sports have one central group, Berry explains, there are quite a few powerlifting organizations that sponsor meets. A full meet typically involves three categories of competition: Squat, bench press and deadlift. The lifters are divided into age and weight classes. She currently fits into Master II, for ages 50 through 54, which prevents her from having to "compete against an 18-year-old."
Each organization keeps their own state, regional and national records. Berry estimates that she has "lifted in probably a half dozen" of the organizations and holds national records in four of them.
She holds national records in every weight class in the "Sonlight Power" group, "in the 105-pound all the way up to the 165-pound." She says Sonlight Power is about the third largest association in the country, based on the number of people lifting. She most recently earned the 132-pound title during competition at the State Fair. This was the only class she was missing.
Two local men also competed at the State Fair. According to Berry, Paul Martin, who lifts in the senior class, bench pressed 240 pounds, while 20-year-old Aaron Parkins, a Northview High School graduate, bench pressed 440 pounds, earning a state record. In her opinion, if Parkins "sticks with it, he will be a national record holder, no problem. He's got some real talent."
One of the best parts of the powerlifting competitions, Berry feels, is that with very few exceptions, the organizations are "drug-free." The participants are "rigorously tested," so they are achieving impressive goals "all naturally."
Although powerlifting is "not something that most people see too often," Berry believes it is "becoming pretty popular." A national meet was even shown on ESPN a few weeks ago.
Berry "would encourage anybody that's even slightly interested" to sign up to compete in the YMCA competition, in the bench press, the deadlift or both. She adds that no one should be worried if they have never been in a meet before because everyone is "just going to have some fun."
People may register at the YMCA or at the park on the day of the event. There will be two separate weight classes for women and three for men. First place winners in each will receive trophies, second place will get medals and everyone who lifts will be presented with a certificate. The entry fee is $10 per event.
Berry thinks the Popcorn Festival would be a great place to start, partly because the cost is so low. Most meets are "a minimum of $45." Furthermore, she contends that while it is a competition, it will not be "cut throat." Most often, Berry says the lifters "really help each other out."