NEOSHO, Mo. — In a typical year, Neosho would be bustling with people there to play in or watch the Neosho Holiday Classic tournament. However, due to COVID-19, the tournament has been reduced from 16 boys teams and eight girls teams, to just six boys teams.
Those teams are East Newton, McDonald County, Lamar, Monett, Neosho, and Hillcrest.
Brandi Arthur, Neosho Athletic Director, says, “I was getting an email or a call every week or say, saying, ‘Hey, our school board isn’t letting us travel overnight’, so we basically planned about four different tournaments before we settled on the one we have right now.”
The changes don’t end with tournament size; the fan favorite dunk contest and three-point contest didn’t make the cut in the downsized tournament.
Arthur says, “Our gym holds almost 2,500 people. In a typical year, we would probably get close to that for our dunk and three point contest, but we won’t be having that this year, so we feel like our capacity will be really manageable and really safe.”
Also missing will be the hospitality rooms usually provided to players and event staff by community sponsors, such as Branco Enterprises.
Instead, handing out hospitality vouchers for the concession stand is under consideration.
Lakin Larimore, Branco Enterprises Marketing Coordinator, says, “It’s something that we enjoy doing, our whole team enjoys doing, and it’s so great to see the whole community to come together and help out these kids they don’t know. So we’ve talked about alternative ways we’re still able to kind of provide that piece while keeping everybody as safe as possible.”
Though this year’s tournament is definitely atypical, event organizers still hope community members will support it.
Larimore says, “It’s such a longstanding tradition in the community and in the area, and so just kind of roll with the changes this year and then next year we hope to be back to the tournament the way we’ve been used to it.”
School officials are asking that those attending the tournament wear a mask when entering or exiting the facilities, as well as when they’re out of their seat.
A one-day ticket to the event can be purchased for $5, or you can get a tournament pass for $12. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online.
The tournament begins Monday, December 28. A full schedule can be found here.