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Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

The Gus Macker Tournament begins Saturday, May 28, in downtown Quincy. (Photo by the Quincy Exchange Club)

For the past 21 years, the kickoff to summertime in Quincy has been the Memorial Day Quincy Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament. The annual event, sponsored by the Quincy Exchange Club, has grown over the years and now boasts more than 500 participating teams from all over the Midwest.

My personal experience with the tournament goes back to 2000, where I’d come back from college and referee or “Gus Bust” for the weekend.  I was always a Buster for some of the younger courts. I spent two years referring for 9 to 10 year old boys division, and then two years in the 12 to 14 year old girls divisions.

I time as a Gus Buster, I was always surprised at the level of play.  Some of these kids had a ton of talent.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that they are now playing for some big-name programs.  Sure, there were always more spectators gathered around the top men’s and women’s courts or the Dream Court at Fifth and Maine, but there was great ball being played on every street in Downtown Quincy regardless of the age group.  There are also fantastic examples of sportsmanship and teamwork on every court.

One of the years I was busting, I had a couple of boys teams at a game late in the day on Saturday.  It was hot, we were all tired, and the two teams were terribly mis-matched.  One team, it seemed, was the 9-year-old version of the Chicago Bulls.  The other looked like it was about to lose its last game without scoring a single point.  I felt bad for the kids on the losing end of this shellacking.  They were trying their little hearts out, but were simply out-manned.

While this was going on, one of the parents from the winning team was shouting to her kids to not let up and to “put a nail in their coffin.” I was appalled and was about to go and talk to the parent who was being so utterly rude, when one of the kids on the team that was winning came and tugged on my sleeve.

The kid asked for a time out.  So I blew the whistle and watched as one of the greatest little moments in sports history happened.

He walked over to the parent and I didn’t catch all that was said except for, “you’re not being very nice,” and then he walked back to me.  And I’ll never forget what he said.  “Sorry my mom was kinda rude, ref.  Hey listen, that kid over there is in my class at school, and he’s got Autism.  I kinda want him to score a point, so is it cool if he shoots a few times and you don’t call him for traveling?”

And just like that, my faith in humanity was restored.  I, of course, assured the kid that I wouldn’t call his classmate for traveling, and his classmate took a half-dozen shots or so until one finally sunk.  Final score of that game was 15-1.  If you looked at that score on paper, you might have thought that the game was an embarrassment, but if you were at that court on Sixth Street, you would have known that it was one of the greatest games ever played at a Quincy Gus Macker Tournament.

So if you’re looking for a good way to “Get Out” this weekend, I suggest going downtown and checking out the Gus Macker Tournament.  Take some time to watch the smaller games going on off of Maine Street though.  Some of the best stories in sports come from the most unexpected places.

Original Post May 23, 2011

 

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Eastern Fence Lizards can be found in Sand Ridge State Forest.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and I don’t yet have a plan. I know, I’m getting to it a little late, but here’s the thing: there are so many great options.  The weather is finally going to cooperate and give us some sunshine, and I’m ready to hit the trail for some hiking, but where to go? Here are the four ideas I’m tossing around — Maybe you can help pick:

Siloam Springs State Park

It’s the closest park to Quincy and has hiking trails that are just lovely.  The boat house opens this weekend, so we could rent canoes or a john boat and enjoy Crabapple Lake.  I know there are lots of nesting birds around the edges of the lake too, so maybe I’d get a chance to see some fuzzy baby geese or something!  Siloam is always a good choice for a near by adventure.

Argyle Lake State Park

Justin Sievert at Argyle Lake State Park in both the winter and the spring.

This state park is also quite close to Quincy.  It’s just outside of Colchester, IL, and is one of the area’s best-kept secrets.  The park features nice amenities including nice spots to camp and the hiking trails make different loops around and near the lake.  There have been several improvements to the park lately, including the addition of stairs on parts of the trail that were in areas that are steep and can wash out in the rain.  There is also a self-guided interpretative trail near the lake with info-graphics that describe the lake ecosystem. I love a good info-graphic!  This park is also one of the few in the area with designated mountain biking trails for the intrepid weekend warrior!

Sand Ridge State Forest

At 7,200 acres Sand Ridge is the largest state park in Illinois. It’s in Forrest City, Illinois, which is in the general vicinity of Peoria.  This park is wholly unique to Illinois.  It is a backpacker’s dream with over 26 miles of trails and 120 miles of fire lanes that can all be explored. There are registered campgrounds as well as rustic backcountry sites that can make this park a real outdoors experience.  The ecosystem of the park is unlike the rest of the state.  Thanks to the receding glaciers of the last ice age dumping millions of tons of sand on the area, as well as a prehistoric dry period in the state’s history, the forest is actually considered temperate desert or “Sand Prairie.”  The unusual make-up of the soil supports plants and animals unseen anywhere else in the state.  There are badgers, pocket gophers, fence lizards, prickly pear cactus, bur oak, and many more unusual species.  The area is also known for its bird life and includes semi-tropical migratory birds like indigo buntings, verry, ovenbirds, and scarlet tanager, along with Illinois game birds like quail, dove and pheasant.

Cuivre River State Park

Question Mark Butterfly at Argyle Lake State Park.

I blogged about this Troy, Missouri park just a few weeks ago, but I just can’t say enough about it.  The trails are great, and the wildlife is even better.  The campsites are nice and flat and all have fire pits and grill covers, and maybe best of all, there are shower facilities that are included when you pay the $12 fee to camp.  Now that it’s warm, the lake and beach will be open.  That means swimming and lounging around to soak up some rays!  The park rents paddleboats and canoes, so there are plenty of ways to beat the heat.  As if all of those things weren’t enough, Ranger Talks start this weekend, and you can listen to the experts tell you more about the wildlife of the park.  Who knows, I may even bring my bike if we go to this park, because the roads through the park also make a lovely ride.

So there you have it.  It’s a good list of options, and now all I need to do is make a choice.  I said this on my first blog, but it’s worth saying again: we live in amazing part of the country.  All that’s asked of us is to “Get Out” and explore it. Have a great weekend everyone!

Links and directions:

Siloam Springs State Park http://tinyurl.com/siloamsprings

Argyle Lake State Park http://tinyurl.com/argylelake

Sand Ridge State Forest: http://tinyurl.com/sandridgeil

Laura Sievert

Cuivre River State Park http://mostateparks.com/park/cuivre-river-state-park

Original Post May 27, 2011

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