The Jersey Shore’s New Pickleball Festival Is Here to Make You Fall in Love With the Sport

The Funky Pickle Ventnor Classic — a philanthropic pickleball party with all-day tournaments and entertainment — will take place on Saturday, September 11th.

The first-ever Funky Pickle Ventnor Classic will happen on September 11th. / Photograph by Maggie Corrado.

Over the past five years, pickleball — a hybrid of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong that requires no prior training and caters to players of all ages and abilities — has grown in popularity. After a boom in participation during the pandemic — a 21.3 percent increase, to be exact — it’s now considered the fastest-growing sport in America.

Plus, the Philly and New Jersey region is home to more and more pickleball courts and enthusiasts. (Ocean City’s scene is pretty hardcore.) And next weekend, a new pickleball festival happening at the Jersey Shore is sure to excite seasoned, newbie, and soon-to-be picklers alike.

The inaugural Funky Pickle Ventnor Classic will take place on Saturday, September 11th in Ventnor City. Hosted by recently founded events company Funky Pickle Productions, the philanthropic pickleball party will feature a tournament of two mixed doubles brackets (“Get Funky” for the social players, “Pickle Down” for the advanced) and raise funds for All Clear Foundation, a nonprofit that provides mental health services to emergency responders throughout the country.

While the tournament is currently waitlist-only, there will be plenty of *free* entertainment and activities to enjoy while watching the picklers in action, including live music from Philly-based brass band Snacktime, craft pickle juice cocktails (!!) from Haddon Township eatery Peace Love Pickles, a beginner-friendly pickleball clinic, a beach bar, food trucks, and a vendor marketplace. There will also be no-cost, on-site mammograms, thanks to the festival’s presenting sponsor, Atlantic Medical Imaging.

Funky Pickle Productions co-founders, Alex Greer and Maggie Corrado. / Photograph by Jason Gates.

Funky Pickle Productions’ co-founders Alex Greer and Maggie Corrado say they decided to put on an event like this to not only spread the word about the growing sport, but celebrate and expand an inclusive, supportive community. Corrado says the meet-up groups she joined in Narberth and at Seger Park are “really welcoming to beginners” (Corrado included) — teaching her the ins and outs of the game, and making her feel at home on the court.

And Greer, whose passion for pickleball peaked during the pandemic, says the sport “helped fill the void of social interaction and inability to produce experiences for people” last year. “As much as the game is about competition and improvement, it’s about enjoying great company and having a good time, which is what the event is built around” he says. “I want people who have never been introduced to pickleball to have a paddle in hand by the end of the day.”

The duo says they plan to develop this into a touring festival series, coming to courts in Philadelphia, the Main Line, and other parts of the Jersey Shore.

The Funky Pickle Ventnor Classic will run from 9 a.m. through 7 p.m. on September 11th at the Ventnor City Courts (5600 Atlantic Avenue, Ventnor). In case of inclement weather, the event will take place on Sunday, September 12th or Saturday, September 25th. You can follow updates on their Instagram.