Working for the weekend

Steven Green (left) of the Quincy Exchange Club and Derrick Burns from the national Gus Macker tournament staff put the finishing touches on court set-ups for this weekend’s tournament. This year marks the 30th Gus Macker tournament in downtown Quincy.

QUINCY — The streets of downtown Quincy will once again be filled with hoops, players, and crowds as Gus Macker returns for the 30th year of the 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

Gus Macker has become synonymous with Memorial Day weekend in Quincy, and it kicks off a packed summer filled with events. It’s a notable reversal from the quiet that the last year brought as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the COVID situation, we weren’t sure even four weeks ago if we’d be able to have this tournament,” Mike Fuller said. Fuller is in town from the Gus Macker national staff. “What Quincy did is they put a cap on the teams, because we didn’t know what size crowds would be allowed, anything like that.”

The Quincy event set a maximum number of teams for this year at 300. As of Thursday, 283 of those spots had already been filled.

“We’ve got 24 courts, plus the dream court. And we’ll have plenty of special events, like the slam dunk contest on Sunday,” Fuller said. “One of the things I love about working with the Quincy Exchange Club is that they have a plan. They were ready to go, if this happens, if that happens. They had a great plan, and they executed it so well.”

The Quincy Exchange Club has already announced that this is their last year bringing Gus Macker to Quincy. That doesn’t mean that the tournament is over for the Gem City, however.

“This will be the last tournament in downtown Quincy on Memorial Day weekend,” Rodney Hart said. Hart is a Quincy resident and business owner who works with the national Gus Macker staff both in Quincy and at other events around the country. “It will be the last tournament that the Exchange Club hosts. We are not giving up on the idea of having Gus Macker come back to Quincy next year.”

Fuller agreed with Hart’s assessment.

“I ran into some folks here last night that were worried, ‘it’s over, it’s done,’ they told me,” Fuller said. “I told them that I wouldn’t quite say that.”

This weekend’s event in Quincy is the first for Gus Macker is nearly two year. The organization is seeing signs of life returning, however.

“Out of 40 or 45 tournaments that are under contract with us, we’ve given them the option to go ahead this year, or to wait until next summer,” Fuller said. “Out of those, we have 20 tournaments on schedule this year. In the last two or three weeks, we’ve even added new tournaments.”

Moberly, Mo., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Flint, Mich. have all added new Macker events for 2021.

Holly Cain, executive director of the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that Gus Macker weekend is just the start of a busy summer in and around Quincy.

“We’re delighted to have so many events that we can promote again,” Cain said, “and that we’re actually able to promote them, as well.”

The state of Illinois had placed restrictions on promotion of events and other work groups like QACVB could do.

Along with nearly 300 three-player teams coming in for Gus Macker, Cain said there are over 300 team entries for next weekend’s Grand Prix of Karting in South Park, and nearly 500 warriors and boaters for Fishing for Freedom, also happening next weekend.

“There are definitely going to be a lot of trailers in town,” Cain said. “It’s a really good whirlwind of events we have happening.”

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is also planning the return of the Flavor Tours, visiting local Quincy restaurants to showcase the cuisine and the chefs that are putting it on the plates.

This weekend sees the return of the Quincy Gems baseball in Quincy, and June 11 sees Blues in the District return to Washington Park.

“It’s been so great to have things coming back,” Cain said.

“This is one of the things I like about what we do,” Fuller said of the Macker events. “It’s just about the communities. The bars, the restaurants, the hotels, they’ve been closed so much of the last year, and we love being a part of their return.”

“We’re just fired up to be coming back,” he added.

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