Linden — Shelly Day and Linda Hathaway were busy people Saturday morning.
It was a beautiful early summer morning on Linden Middle School’s campus, and within the campus were many half-court basketball stands, hundreds of basketball players ranging from grade school age to adults and a variety of Linden Community School students doing just about any job that needed to be done.
Saturday morning was the start of Linden’s fifth annual Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament at its new location. It was moved from Linden Elementary to the Linden High School campus (for parking) and Linden Middle School campus (for the activities) due to the increasing size of the tournament. And it’s probably a good thing it was. The tournament had a record 223 teams in 19 different divisions, meaning there were probably about 1,000 people in the tournament area at any given time throughout Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
“I’m really excited,” said Day, who is the Fenton Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director and Gus Macker event organizer. “We’ve heard nothing but good comments about it and it’s so well laid out. We have all the room we want, and we still have room to expand, that’s a great thing. I think we found our new home.”
Most of the action happened on the back parking lot at Linden Middle School. The courts were lined up, stretching a good length of the parking lot. Gus Macker’s Dream Court was set aside to give its games a bit more prestige. But with as many courts as there was, elbow space was easily available compared to the event held at Linden Elementary School.
“We’ve had gradual growth, which is wonderful,” said Hathaway, co-chairperson and a presenting sponsor with Brad Hoffman Insurance Agency. “That’s why we had to change locations, the gradual growth.
“Each time we’ve changed locations we had more teams so we needed more surface — more surface for the players and more surface for parking. This will probably be our last change because we do have ample room to grow with the courts and the parking. This works really well.”
The Linden Gus Macker began in 2015 at Hyatt Elementary with 128 teams. It stayed there until moving to Linden Elementary School last year. By then the tournament included 208 squads. With each year, the tournament has steadily grown by an average of almost 20 teams a season. Most of the squads are youth teams with many being grade school age. So along with the more than 800 athletes it takes to create the teams, many families also attend the contests creating a family friendly atmosphere.
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“I love that it is a family event,” Hathaway said. “It’s local in our community and it’s an opportunity for the chamber to interact with the community. And with our partnership with Linden Community Schools district, as our charity that Gus Macker requires that we have, it gives us an opportunity to have business people work with all these youngsters. We bring them into the community and bring a lot of families to the community.”
“I just enjoy the opportunity to bring everyone here to Linden to see what Linden has to offer,” Day said. “This puts Linden on the map basically. ... We’ve grown 20 teams, basically, every year, so we are really excited about that. It lets people know what Linden has to offer.... With all the things going on downtown, it’s going to help Linden move along with its economy.”
Without its volunteers, the Gus Macker couldn’t happen. Many of the volunteers are Linden schools students who volunteer their time doing a variety of jobs during the two days. Their time is rewarded with payment to groups that they are part of within the district. Of course, many chamber members also volunteer their time.
“We couldn’t do this without the volunteers,” Day said. “It takes so many volunteers to make this work. There are so many school volunteers and school groups.”