Despite the overwhelming challenges Hurricane Dorian presented in its aftermath, this past Tuesday, November 26, marked the return of the international commercial Bahamasir flight to Grand Bahama.
On the occasion, 138 persons traveling aboard the Boeing 737 jet, including visiting teams, families and friends arriving in attendance of the 21st Tabernacle Falcons Thanksgiving Basketball Tournament, which tipped off yesterday afternoon at the St. George’s Gymnasium. The final wave of teams arrived Wednesday morning aboard the Celebration.
This year’s tournament attracted four teams out of Tennessee (Volunteer High, Elizabethton High, Dobyns Bennett High and Tennessee High).They square off against the island’s best high school teams in senior boys and girls action.
According to Tournament Director Norris Bain, this year’s venture required a full-fledged effort from government entities like the Ministry of Tourism, along with Bahamasair and the Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board and others. While Bain assured that the tournament will be a highly competitive affair, he spoke more to the sentimental value that the tournament holds for various stakeholders on the island.
“It gives us something to do and take our minds off of what we’ve been through for at least four days during this Thanksgiving week,” he expressed.
“It also gives us perspective to give thanks for the little things. As a Grand Bahamian I feel really proud to have been a part of the first (commercial) international flight into the island since Hurricane Dorian.
“That really gave me a sense of pride. Now we’ll be able to put some smiles on some children’s face during this week - they’ll be able to get in the gymnasium to cheer for their favorite high school - win, lose or draw. It’s going to be a great experience this week for the entire community.
“We’ll get a chance to be a part of some taxi drivers making some money this week, along with some hoteliers. Island Seas is going to cater to over 200 people this week. Children, whose parents are employed at the hotel and straw vendors are going to have a good week and that really makes me feel good to know I’ve been able to contribute to more than just basketball to our island and to our country,” said Bain.
Today’s action tips-off at 2:30 p.m. with girls’ play. One of the host teams, the Tabernacle Lady Falcons will take on Dobyns Bennett; followed by the St. George’s Lady Jaguars clashing with Elizabethton High at 3:30 p.m. The final girls’ match of the day will feature the Eight Mile Rock Blue Jays taking on Tennessee High.
In senior boys action, the St. George’s Jaguars will take on the Jack Hayward Wildcats at 5:30 p.m., followed shortly by the Tabernacle Falcons meeting Tennessee High at 6:30 p.m. Closing out day two will be the Sunland Stigners against Volunteer High.
As the island collectively began to pick up the pieces, Bain shared that he made it a mission to visit each of the visiting teams from east Tennessee. The tournament’s creator then shared that the visiting teams gravitated to Bain’s assurance that the island and airport would be ready.
“I took the time and drove 13 hours to east Tennessee and sat with the coaches and assured them that we were a resilient people and that we would be ready for this. I gave them the assurance this airport would be open because I had spoken with the president of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (Ian Rolle) and he assured me that everything would be alright.
“It would also be remiss of me not thanking Michael Pintard, the Member of Parliament for Marco City and also Minister of Agriculture for working with me and making the right connections with Bahamasair and the Minister of Tourism.
“These gentlemen were in our corner the whole time and fighting with us realizing that what we were doing was bigger than politics. I really am excited that we were able to band together as Bahamians and see the joy on the faces of these people coming off the plane.
“It was really exciting and they all gave a resounding yes before I left Virginia, that they’ll be here.”
General Manager for the MOT in Grand Bahama, Steven Johnson was elated to welcome the visiting teams and their parties as they made their way to baggage claim. With a strong belief in sports tourism, Johnson remained hopeful that this tournament will be a catalyst for other events moving forward.
“This tournament means so much to us. Sports tourism is going to be big here in Grand Bahama and this was the first flight since the passage of Dorian.
“We hope this event is going to motivate others to come and see that Grand Bahama is open for business and that we welcome everyone here to Grand Bahama island,” he concluded.
As it has become customary, the visiting teams were greeted at Tabernacle’s campus with a cultural celebration during the tournament’s opening ceremony Wednesday morning. Later that afternoon the first slate of games took place at the St. George’s Gymnasium.
The Thanksgiving Classic came to fruition while the Falcons were competing during the Arby’s Classic, held annually in December. The Arby’s Classic is a national gem in the United States, that had former and current NBA players like Ray Allen (retired), Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies) and even our very own Chavano “Buddy” Hield (Sacramento Kings) participate, through the years..
Director of the Arby’s Classic, Dale Burns, offered the idea of Bain starting his own tournament, where Burns would assist in having visiting teams from the United States travel annually to participate. The rest became history as teams from Tennessee have eagerly anticipated the Thanksgiving Classic each year since 1998.