HoopsFest brings ‘a lot of life’ to Tyrone

The streets of Tyrone will be packed Saturday as the community comes together to support one of the area’s largest events of the year.

HoopsFest has grown into the biggest outdoor 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the state of Pennsylvania, and it is held in downtown Tyrone.

In the year 2000, Jim Kilmartin, the executive director and founder of Joshua House and the founder of HoopsFest, was looking for a positive way to bring people together.

“Our founders were talking about ideas of how to help impact the community, and the idea of a 3-on-3 tournament came up,” Theron Glenny, a Joshua House board member, said. “A lot of us love basketball, so it was a great fit.”

The event had a modest beginning in the summer of 2001, when 15 teams came together to play in the first annual tournament.

“It started as an idea for a fun, community event,” Kilmartin said. “We had 15 teams. We put an ad in the Altoona Mirror and put flyers around and invited people.”

To say the event has grown since those original 15 teams would be an understatement. HoopsFest now draws 250 teams, 1,000 players and approximately 5,000 people.

Participants from all over central Pennsylvania take part in the event annually, and last year, the tournament even attracted players and fans from eight other states.

“People put it on the calendar and make it an annual event and even a reunion atmosphere. They come back every year for it,” Kilmartin said.

HoopsFest gives people of all ages and skill levels a chance to get involved. The youngest age division includes players who are only seven or eight years old, while the most senior division has players in their 80s.

There are divisions for the more skilled players who are looking to play competitively and a “really rec division,” Kilmartin said, for players just looking to have a good time.

In addition to providing people an opportunity to reunite, HoopsFest allows the local economy to benefit from the event.

“As you can imagine, when the town of Tyrone has around 5,000 people in population, when you have 5,000 people downtown it makes a significant impact economically,” Glenny said. “It has really become a staple for the entire region.”

The whole community gets involved each year. Volunteers run the event, and businesses and organizations set up as food vendors or run activities for the kids.

“We have a fantastic volunteer team. Between 150 and 200 volunteers make it happen. The community and the Tyrone Borough are fantastic behind it,” Kilmartin said. “The sponsors rally behind it and make it a fantastic event.”

Two of the most popular highlights of the tournament are the $500 shot contest and the slam dunk contest, which are sponsored and judged by various organizations.

“The jewel of the day is the slam dunk contest, which people come from all over to participate and just watch it,” Kilmartin said.

WTAJ’s K.C. Kantz is the emcee of the slam dunk contest this year.

Another highlight of the day is a guest speaker, a former professional basketball player, who will be presenting to the participants and community members during lunchtime.

“This year’s theme is ‘no limits,'” Kilmartin said.

The theme for the year is fitting, given the amount the event has grown and the impact it has had.

“It’s our largest fundraiser of the year,” Glenny said.

All the proceeds from the event go to Joshua House. Like the HoopsFest event itself, Joshua House seeks to have a positive impact on the community, especially the teen population.

“Joshua House is a nonprofit youth ministry in Tyrone that really exists to help teenagers find purpose,” Glenny said.

Joshua House is celebrating its 20th year of service this year. After recently purchasing a National Guard armory to utilize in the community, the organization is looking to reach even more people in the coming year.

“It’s a fantastic thing that enhances the goodness that’s already there from the people, the borough and the businesses,” Kilmartin said.

HoopsFest has become a major part of the Tyrone community’s summer and has given community members a weekend to look forward to.

“HoopsFest bring a lot of life to the town. Events like that bring life to the community,” Glenny said. “HoopsFest has become a reunion for a lot of people. It has become a staple for them and their families. It has had a huge impact on the town over the years.”