TYRONE - When HoopsFest started 10 years ago, nobody could have imagined the huge event it would become just a decade later.
Tyrone native Sarah (Grazier) Kirk was there that first year when 11 teams played in a 3-on-3 tournament in a downtown parking lot.
After hosting 92 teams last year, HoopsFest broke into triple digits this year with exactly 132 teams ranging in age group from 8-and-under to 60-and-over. Individual participants ranged from age 6 to 76.
Snare & Associates’ Fred Buck (right) tries to drive on Jason Miller of Miller &?Associates in the competitive division at the Tyrone HoopsFest held Saturday afternoon. Snare &?Associates finished second in the division.
"I never would have envisioned this in a million years," Kirk said. "It was basically a 3-on-3 pickup game that first year, and now we have vendors and a dunk contest. It's pretty amazing."
Now living in Pittsburgh, Kirk brought a teammate from her playing days at Robert Morris University this year and won the women's Open Division with the help of a couple of recent Claysburg-Kimmel graduates.
"It's really cool to comeback to your hometown and be able to experience something like this. We're going to make an annual thing of it," the 1997 Tyrone graduate said.
Portions of 10th Street and Logan Avenue are shut down to vehicle traffic, and volunteers start setting up the courts at 5 a.m. Portable hoops are brought in and lines painted on the streets. Twenty-three courts were needed this year to accommodate all the teams.
Vendors sell food and drinks from the parking lot where it all started, and an emcee sits on a trailer at the intersection of 10th and Logan making various announcements and holding giveaways. There are even fun games and a bounce house for the younger children.
"We did a little more publicity this year for the 10th anniversary, but mostly it's grown through word of mouth," Joshua House executive director Jim Kilmartin said.
Joshua House, a community center in Tyrone with programs for kids, teens and young adults, organizes and runs HoopsFest. It has become the organizations biggest fundraiser.
Joshua House does not do it alone, however. Other local non-profits serve as vendors, and sponsors provide money, services and donate goods.
"The sponsors are the ones who really help make it happen. It's become a community-wide event," Kilmartin said.
This year's field featured teams from as far away as Pittsburgh and Baltimore with the majority of the teams coming from central Pennsylvania. In addition to the dunk contest, HoopsFest also featured a 3-point shooting contest, a $500 shot competition and a performance by Harlem Globetrotter Seth Franco.
"The goal is to have lots of games in a great atmosphere with some different things to do as well," Kilmartin said. "The competition's very good at every skill level,"
Playing in his seventh HoopsFest, Kevin Hershberger has enjoyed the growth of the event.
"There weren't many teams the first year I played," the 2005 Tyrone graduate said. "The atmosphere is great. The competition's good. It brings people from all over to Tyrone."
Hershberger provided one of the day's many highlights when he hit a game-winning 3-pointer on the move to help his team advance in the Rec Division playoffs. Moments later on an adjacent court, Geoff Brosky sank a 3-pointer to give his team a 21-19 victory in the Competitive Division finals.
"I love playing ball. Every opportunity I get, I take it," the Morrisdale man said. "It's good competition with a lot of different skill levels in a relaxed environment, and it benefits the kids. It's just a great tournament."
Anthony Lytle won the dunk contest for the second straight year. The Altoona graduate who currently plays at Edinboro University beat out seven other high-flyers to win the title.
"It's a great tournament that just keeps getting better," Lytle said. "The more people that find out about it, the more people want to come play in it."