Putting a Gus Macker tournament together takes a lot of hard work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

It’s 10:30 a.m. Friday, and Gus Macker committee member Rick McKnight has a few questions. He hangs his head out of his truck and asks committee chair Joyce Lynd: “Hey, where are we going to put our tent?”

“Oh, that’ll be on Washington Street — in the street,” Lynd replies. “But since it’s still open, just put it on the parking lot there.”

“But they’ve sealed it,” McKnight said.

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“Can you put it on the sidewalk in front of it?” Lynd said.

A short distance away, fellow committee member Cheryl Bolender is signing for delivery of 306 cases of Coca Cola.

The countdown is on: In less than 24 hours, 700-plus players will take to the courts in Ironton’s second annual Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament.

Hundreds more will pull up chairs to watch. But long before any of those players touch a basketball, a small army of community-minded folks will have put in countless hours to make Gus Macker happen.

Who does what … and

when… and where?

Friends of Ironton sponsors Gus Macker. Eight to 10 Friends of Ironton members also are on the tournament committee. It is those individuals who are essentially the engine of the event —

assembling volunteers, raising money and working out the logistics behind the scenes. Work on this year’s Gus Macker actually began last November when the committee began meeting monthly at 7 a.m.

“We start fundraising and gathering our sponsors. Without our sponsors, it would be impossible for us to do this,” committee member Bolender said. “We are grateful for them and grateful for the community support.”

In January, the committee began meeting weekly. There is a long list of considerations that must be worked out before May.

“We talk about such things as signage, trophies, food.”

Food, Bolender said, is an easier task to master than some issues.

“The vendors come to us,” she said. There is, after all, money to be made supplying food and drink to the multitudes. Vendors are eager to man the sidelines.

There is also coordination for a sound system, transportation to haul equipment and securing seating for the crowds.

“We work with the local schools to get bleachers,” Bolender said.

There is also lighting and meals for the volunteers.

“It is an enormous feat,” Bolender said.

It’s also time-consuming.

As he helped assemble mats for the basketball courts, committee member Randy Lilly was asked how many hours he had put in on Gus Macker preparations.

“This week or since January?” he asked.

He had to think a moment.

“Since January, I would say, maybe 200 hours, we work 12 hours Friday, 12 hours Saturday and 12 hours Sunday.”

An ounce of promotion

Committee members are also cheerleaders. Making sure the public and prospective players get the word about Gus Macker is a tournament unto itself.

This year, 7,500 flyers were mailed out to Gus Macker players across the country.

“Macker Man”, the brightly-colored basketball-with-legs mascot made countless appearances in support of the tournament.

“We took him to the grade schools and the basketball tournaments. We talked to the Little Leagues. We went to the school here and in Kentucky. We’re trying to get the word out there, too,” Lynd said. “And we just try to reach out and be part of community events.

With Clear Channel Communications

and The Ironton Tribune as a major sponsors, Gus Macker was heard on the radio as well in countless promotional ads.


Approximately 100 additional people will have volunteered at some time this weekend to make Gus a reality: scorekeepers, setup crews, registration teams, clean up crews, memorabilia sales, even those “Gus Busters” — tournament officials on the sidelines for all the games.

“They help us set up, they help with registration, they sell T-shirts,” Bolender said.

People with the national Gus Macker organization arrived Wednesday. Working with local volunteers, mats were assembled to create temporary basketball courts, bleachers and signs were erected, tents put up and registration tables were set up at the Ironton City Center.

Some of the volunteers will come from the Ironton Municipal Court’s pool of community service workers.

“We’ve got them setting up and then they will be helping take it all down,” Dave Blankenship, work program director for municipal court, .


Why would more than 100 people work countless hours for no pay, rain or shine, and spend a perfectly good weekend working up a sweat, getting tired and dirty? Lilly said the end result — seeing the streets of Ironton filled people fixated on a worthwhile past time — is well worth the effort.

“This just brings the whole community together,” he said. “It’s a tremendous event.”