Welcome to Mackerville

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

The community was not promised a competition, it was promised an event. The community was not promised a basketball tournament, it was promised a carnival.

Gus Macker organizers promised a lot before its arrival in town, but on Saturday, the Mack delivered.

A few blocks of Second Street were transformed as thousands of people ate funnel cakes, bounced in inflatable toys and, of course, shot hoops.

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The first Ironton Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament was the place to be for hoop fans, allowing teams of four to strut their stuff against teams from across the state. The event continues until dusk today.

Dustin Kangas and James Montgomery are both 13-year-old members of the Blazing Tarheels. They were just coming off a big win over the Hoop Stars, and were celebrating with a snow cone and an exploration of Ironton's downtown.

The Kirksville natives, like many there, had traveled hours to compete in the tournament.

The boys competed in four Macker tournaments last year, and they plan to hit the courts at all of the Ohio events this year.

They said the scale of the Ironton tournament wasn't quite what they were used to, but the city did have its charms.

"There's a lot of people here, but it's kind of little," Dustin said.

"But I like it because it's all flat," James added. "We went to Š I think it was Chillicothe, and it was all uphill and downhill."

Though the boys had spent a lot of miles on the road for Macker, and had plans to spend quite a few more, they made it clear it was all for the love of the game.

"We just love basketball," Dustin said.

"Basketball is awesome," James chimed in from behind a cherry snow cone-stained smile.

But, as we had been told so many times before, Macker is more than just basketball.

It was a party, a celebration. The carnival atmosphere was enhanced with the crackling cinnamon smell of elephant ears, and the music being pumped from all corners of the event.

It was also a fund-raiser. All of the proceeds gathered from the (mostly) good-natured competition will be donated to the Friends of Ironton, the civic improvement that organized the event.

"I think it's great, the 10,000 hours that the Friends of Ironton have put in have truly paid off," Mayor John Elam said.

Besides raising money, and perhaps more important, the event raised Ironton's profile. More than 170 teams journeyed to Ironton's Second Street, some from as far away as Buffalo, N.Y.

Even if only for a day, downtown Ironton was truly revitalized.

Events like the tournament are a vital part, Elam said, of making that revitalization permanent.

"I think people that are volunteering time and efforts to the community, and involving the community in events like this are integral to Ironton's progress," Elam said before returning his attention to the courts.

After all, there were games to watch.