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Throw and Tell: speed dating with axes

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Cascadia Axe Co. combines sharp implements, speed dating to show people a good time
Dakoda Dorsaneo instructs Matthew Wooton of White City to throw an ax two-handed before speed dating at Cascadia Axe Company off Crater Lake Highway in Central Point Thursday evening. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Dakoda Dorsaneo gives tips to Chris Jasinski of Medford and Vaya Potter of Jacksonville on how throw an ax one-handed during a speed dating event at Cascadia Axe Company. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Vaya Potter of Jacksonville throws an ax during a speed dating event at Cascadia Axe Company Thursday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

To the casual observer, it looked like the nearly three dozen mostly single folk at Cascadia Axe Company Thursday night were tossing axes, sipping cold drinks and enjoying a few laughs.

But a closer look revealed a series of colored bracelets that denoted their real intentions — some were looking for love, some just for fun or friendship. Others were undecided.

A new twist on dating, Cascadia Axe Company’s “Throw and Tell” combines speed dating with sharpened implements.

Ax throwing whilst meeting new people, explained Bird Durrant, co-owner of the region’s only ax-throwing joint, could be the region’s best new way to find love — or just have a little fun.

What better way to find other “single-and-ready-to-mingle” folks than at a hangout with sharp objects and cold drinks?

Durarnt and her husband, Kyle, opened Cascadia in February 2020, six weeks before COVID shutdowns forced them to get “super creative” to ensure reopening and even some growth over the past two-plus years.

Embracing the ongoing trend — knock on wood — of unmasked faces, the Durrants kicked off “Throw and Tell” in May, garnering an instant following.

“There just wasn’t a lot of ways to go out and meet people, so this is like kind of a structured activity, but it’s something fun to do. It’s good for someone who maybe feels like, ‘I really like ax throwing; maybe I’ll meet someone here that is into that, too.’ The need for singles events was a big push. This is our fifth event since May,” she said.

“It was just going to be something fun for summer, but we’ve had requests to keep it going on our regular schedule. Even if you’re not looking for romance, maybe you just want to get out of the house and make some friends. We use a ‘stoplight’ system to show level of interest, and we’re LGBTQ-friendly, so there’s a second bracelet color: blue if you’re interested in boys, pink for girls and orange for they/them. That way there’s no awkwardness like, ‘Oh, I was in love with that guy, but he’s not interested in women.’”

Lizzey Stephenson, 25, of Medford, was solidly “looking for” a few good laughs and suitable throwing partners of any description Thursday. Stephenson boasted four bracelets; blue, pink, red and green. Acquainting herself with newcomers, Stephenson shared stories and sipped a cold drink waiting for speed rounds to start.

“This is my second time coming to the speed-dating thing, and it’s such a blast. I made two friends last time, and the people that work here are so fun,” she said.

“I’ve noticed, if I talk to somebody, I throw better, so if I take nothing else away from this, there’s that. I was a little scared my first time coming in, but I had a couple drinks and then I was like, ‘Hey! This is great!’ It’s just really fun, and we got to talk to a lot of people.”

Stephenson added, “When I throw, I like to picture old bosses, exes work really well, co-workers you hate ...”

Cascadia employee Dakoda Dorsaneo, aka Radnar, offered newcomers a quick orientation on throwing safety.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s getting bigger and bigger every time. This area is so sparse for fun events. We’ve added black lights on weekends, knife throwing just started up,” Dorsaneo said. To facilitate the five-minute meet-and-greets between participants, participants are assigned a “1” or a “2.”

“After five minutes, one stays and one moves over. At the end, we’ll let them find someone they didn’t get to talk to yet,” he added. “If you don’t make any matches, you learn a fun new skill and you can come back and try again.”

A newcomer, Medford resident Chris Jasinski, 36, said he was intrigued with the combination of axes and meeting new people.

“This is my first time. It sounds like an interesting way to go about it all,” he admitted.

“I’ve never been speed-dating, and I’ve never done ax throwing. I kind of already wanted to come here, and then I had heard about the speed-dating opportunity, so I had to try it out. I’ve got my green bracelet, I’m single. The pink bracelet is because I’m looking for a lady friend. I’m open to whatever, figured I’d just see how it goes.”

Stephanie Rehder of Medford checked in for the event, though she’d been ax throwing at Cascadia before.

“I’m excited for this event because there’s not really very much as far as dating opportunities around here. Meeting people in the wild is hard to do in Southern Oregon. I heard they have, depending what number you hit with your ax, questions to ask each other, so it helps build in fun conversations,” said the 38-year-old.

Questions, Durrant explained, were a fun add-in to spark conversations and save participants from the awkward “Where are you from?” conversations or cheesy pickup lines.

Another first-time thrower, Jacksonville resident Vaya Potter, 42, had beginner’s luck and admitted a competitive streak.

“I just want to have some fun. My co-worker comes here and is in a league, and she told me about it. I’ve been on Tinder for a couple weeks, so I asked a few people, ‘Hey, want to go ax throwing?’ But nobody seemed to want to. I’m kind of competitive, so I think it’s great,” said Potter.

Bracelet colors aside, Potter said she was looking for intellect, talent, maybe athleticism and a decent derriere to gaze upon.

“It’s fun to try something I haven’t done before, and if there happened to be an amazing man here, with a nice booty, that would be really great. I don’t have any expectations either way.”

At night’s end, Durrrant said she and employees would manually review checklists of names. Attendees check a box next to “swipe left” or “swipe right.” If any two throwers “swiped right” in conjunction, she’ll text them each other’s digits and let them do the rest.

“It’s basically like a manual version of Tinder,” she said with a laugh.

Durrant was pleased with the packed house at Cascadia Thursday. She said she sent out 24 “potential match” text messages following the event.

“The first time we hosted this, it was a little awkward. The second time, less so,” she said.

“Since the third time, we hit our groove and it’s been a packed house ever since. Ax throwing and speed dating, what’s not to love?”

Throw and Tell dates are announced on the Cascadia Axe Company website and Facebook, cascadiaaxe.com/ and facebook.com/cascadiaaxe

For more info, call 541-203-0246

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or bpollock@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal