For the 17th straight year, the Norwich Family Y Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament is taking to the streets of Norwich, attracting athletes, spectators and volunteers from all over and transforming the city into “Mackerville, USA.”
Each year, the Gus Macker tournament brings in the most devoted basketball players from up and down the east coast, resulting in the city’s population of 7,000 people to more than double in size over night. Beginning Friday and continuing throughout the weekend, volunteers are sacrificing their time to make sure things run smoothly, proving that this annual sporting event has a much deeper community impact than the sport itself.
Volunteers began work early yesterday morning to snap together court flooring in the parking lots of Tops Supermarket and City Hall, and set up a series of basketball courts that span nearly quarter of a mile down East Main Street, thereby replacing downtown traffic with a basketball haven for local and visiting competitors.
“We get such tremendous community support for this every year,” said Macker volunteer Shannon Gawronski. Gawronski was only one of several volunteers working together Friday morning to construct the Macker Dream Court for weekend games. “The day before is just as much an event as the rest of the weekend,” she added.
And the community has done nothing but show support for the event over the years. This year alone, more than 400 volunteers worked throughout the year, planning, coordinating and of course, taping boundary lines to the pavement and raising basketball hoops.
“Everyone just gets so pumped up and excited about this,” explained YMCA Executive Director Jamey Mullen. “To me, this is all about community,” he said, citing tremendous amounts of help offered by local individuals and businesses that sent out additional volunteers to lend a hand during the set up process. “They all step up to volunteer because they know it’s a community event,” Mullen said.
Though admitting he’s never played in the tournament, first year Macker volunteer Justin Sawyer said everyone enjoys watching a good basketball game. Sawyer, an 18-year-old who’s lived in Norwich his entire life, recalled watching Macker games as a kid; the excitement now is the same as it was then, he said.
“I’ve always seen this as a great way of supporting the community,” claimed Sawyer. “When else do you get to see large crowds in Norwich?”
Macker coordinator Tom Revoir, who’s organized all but the very first basketball tournament over the course of its seventeen-year history in Norwich, said that the event has only “grown bigger and better over the years.”
“This has been the pinacle sporting event in the area for 17 years,” he noted. While 427 teams are vying for the top spot in their bracket, the most important thing is not to forget it’s a weekend for family-fun, he added. “Behave yourself and have a good time ... Win or lose, it doesn’t matter; just have fun.”
While Gus Macker has undoubtedly become a community tie in the City of Norwich, local businesses non-profits are seeing the financial benefits too. Six different food vendors have claimed a spot in East Park, along with the Chenango County Farmers Market, which will have stands set up until 2 p.m. today.
Each year, the event collectively brings in well over 25,000 for area not for profit agencies, with the Norwich YMCA and its programs and services directly supported. In addition, an expected crowd that includes more than 1,700 players, gives local merchants an opportunity to showcase their venue for what’s perhaps the largest event of the year for downtown commerce.
The Gus Macker tournament will continue through Saturday before wrapping up for the day with the women’s 3-point shot competition final at 6 p.m. at center court, followed by the slam dunk competition. Events pick up again on Sunday with a prayer service at 7 a.m. Games resume at 8 a.m. and will continue until tomorrow’s final championship games.