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Gus Macker returns

Isaac Glover had pulled up a chair on the US Bank parking lot Saturday morning and watched intently the activity on a temporary basketball court not far from the bank drive-thru.

Any other Saturday of the year the bank parking lot would be empty except for bank patrons. And on another other day of the year, Glover might be doing something else. But today, his son, Joshua Glover, and his grandsons, Raphael Glover and Jacob Long, were playing in the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament.

“I’m enjoying it,” Isaac Glover said. “And the weather is excellent.”

Good weather and an extensive list of good games brought a few thousand people to downtown Ironton this weekend for the fifth annual Gus Macker event, organized by the Friends of Ironton and sponsored by several Tri-State businesses and government agencies.

A little history

While Gus Macker’s history in Ironton is only five years old, the organization began in 1974 in Lowell, Mich., when founder Scott McNeal got the idea for a 3-on-3 tournament and used his parents’ driveway as that first venue.

According to information from the national organization, the Macker tournaments has continued to grow through the years and now includes more than 200,000 players in more than 75 cities.

This year the Ironton event was moved from May to early June — after the end of the school year.

Players

Raphael Glover not only got to play in the Gus Macker event, his team was chosen at random to play on the DreamCourt, a fancier version of the street courts that dotted Second Street this weekend. It was Raphael’s (call him Snoopy this weekend) first chance to play in the tournament.

“It’s alright,” he said afterward. Teammate Jacob Isaac said he’s played in the Gus Macker event before and found it to be his cup of tea.

“I like to play basketball and it’s fun,” Isaac said.

Not far away, Sam Miller, of Chillicothe, sat down a moment and watched teammates shoot hoops.

“We play in five or six (Gus Macker events) a year,” Miller said.

Some of the players were young and some were, well, signed up in the 40-plus category. Kevin Waldo, of Ironton, wore a shirt that read, “Do resuscitate.”

“That’s our team name,” he mused. Waldo has played in Gus Macker every year but one and that year he was a GusBuster — one of the volunteers who helped make Gus a success each year.

“I’m enjoying the heck out of it,” Waldo said. “Its a lot of fun, good for the community, good for lifting up one’s spirits and part of the method by which we can bring pride back to the city of Ironton.”

Gus Macker coordinator Joyce Lynd said the tournament attracted 215 teams this year and while it may not be a record, she’s still pleased.

“It’s down a little but given the economy, it’s not surprising,” she said.

Lynd said nearly 200 volunteers help stage the event each year.

Spectators

The sidewalks along Second Street from Bobby Bare Boulevard to Adams Street were a crowded place Saturday. Some pulled up lawn chair while others found a seat on a curb. Paul Eicher came from South Point to see friends play ball. He had never attended the Gus Macker event.

“It seems like Ironton has needed something like this forever,” Eicher said. “There is nothing for the kids to do.”

Selling

If Gus Macker was bringing them in, some downtown merchants were hoping for some additional foot traffic this weekend. Unger’s Shoes at the corner of Park Avenue and South Third Street brought some of its merchandise outside for passerby to see.

“We’ve had a lot of people looking,” salesman Ryan Kemp said. “We’re hoping to get some basketball shoes out of the way.”