Norwalk bowler Brian Klett has a passion for bowling.
Klett, 22, joined his first league about 17 years ago. He is now a regular member of four area leagues and substitutes in a fifth.
"My dad is 67 and bowls in as many leagues as I do. My mom is the same way," he said. "I know guys who are in their 90s who still bowl.
"It's something I've grown up with. It's something I've always done. I've been bowling since the age of 3," Klett said.
Bowling is perfect for winter, he explained, because it could be "30 below and 20 feet of snow outside (and) the weather doesn't affect it. You don't have to dress up for it," he explained.
Gary Gilbert knows firsthand how busy the winter months can be for a bowling alley.
The owner of River View Lanes in Huron was a flurry of activity. He checked out customers who finished bowling, gave people shoes, rang up food transactions, served drinks and made snacks.
River View has about 3,000 bowlers each week during the winter.
"It drops off by half (in the summer). It's enough to pay your help and make a profit," said Gilbert, who employs 11 people in a business that costs $50,000 in parts and maintenance annually plus utilities.
Gilbert considers the time change through Christmas break one of his busiest times of the year because he said it's "when it gets dark outside and the kids get out of school."
Norwalk's Kenilee Lanes & Pro Shop, like River View, sees its busiest times in January through March "because nothing else is going on ... in the dead of winter," owner Dwight Tkach said.
The eight-lane Norwalk bowling alley hosts between 400 and 450 bowlers during the first three months of the year. Kenilee is closed in the summer, but action picks up again in September.
For River View, lane reservations in the winter are a must.
"If you don't make a lane reservation for Friday or Saturday or Sunday, we'll have to turn you away. There are times in February and March where we have to turn away as many people as we accept. That's how jam packed we are," Gilbert said.
Tkach said bowling is a great winter sport that builds a sense of community because people can get exercise while getting out of the house.
"It's something you can do at any age," Tkach said, adding that it's a great sport for families and couples.
The Pfefferle siblings, four brothers and sisters originally from Huron, use bowling as an excuse for a family reunion. For at least eight years about Thanksgiving or Christmas, a group of 20 to 24 relatives, starting at age 2, have met at River View.
"It's something all ages enjoy," said Donna Losiewicz, now of Findlay.
Her sister, Barb Novak, of Avon, hears a demand from her children about the annual event.
"Every time we get together, my son asks if we're getting together with the cousins," Novak said.
The family, after the bowling adventure, then goes to the grandparents' house for board and card games.
Bowling creates a bond with more than just family members.
Klett, who has been in bowling alleys nearly his entire life, said it's easy to be close to league bowlers, especially when you see the same people weekly for 32 to 33 weeks.
"You grow some good attachments," he said, noting that many of those bowlers have witnessed Klett improve his own skills.
"You don't have to be good at it to enjoy (bowling)," Klett said. "You don't have to carry a 200 average to enjoy it. ... It's all about going out and enjoying the sport."
Losiewicz agrees that doing well is, at best, secondary. "It's not about the score. It's about fun," she said.