Quincy News

Gus Macker ready to descend upon the streets of downtown Quincy

Kari Romano, of Mr. Wizard's Bouncing Castles, builds a dunk tank in Washington Park in preparation for the 2019 Gus Macker on Friday, May. 24, 2019. The 3-on-3 basketball tournament brings hundreds of people to Quincy's District each year. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger
Katelyn Metzger1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 24, 2019 10:10 pm Updated: May. 24, 2019 10:12 pm

QUINCY -- Marcus Clifton stood in the middle of Fifth Street Friday night and eyed the basketball hoop about 15 feet away. He raised his arm and followed through on his shot.

Swish!

Clifton, 18, was one of many participants in this weekend's Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament who ventured out Friday just after the basketball hoops were placed along Quincy's downtown streets. He wanted to get in some practice before the games start Saturday morning and continue through Sunday.

"I wanted to get used to the baskets," he said. "These are a lot different than how the rest of Quincy has their baskets arranged."

Clifton, who has been playing basketball all his life, started playing in Gus Macker tournaments when he was 7. He comes back every year because -- like many others in a basketball-crazy town -- he loves to play the game.

Clifton says he looks forward to the Macker every year.

"Over the course of the weekend, everybody's having fun, everybody's having a good time," he said. "We're all doing something we love together."

The Macker has been a Quincy tradition for 29 years. It's made possible because of the Quincy Exchange Club, which has been hosting the local event from the beginning. The tournament has become the club's primary fundraising event.

"I personally think it's a wonderful event for Quincy," said Steve Green, who co-chairs the Macker with Perry Terwelp.

"It's also a great event for the Exchange Club," Green said. "It gives us an opportunity to do something for the community and raise funds that support all of our donations and contributions back to Quincy."

The tournament requires a considerable amount of manpower to set it up Friday night and to carry it out Saturday and Sunday.

Quincy's tournament at one time featured more than 1,200 teams, but participation has waned over the years. About 300 teams are registered for this weekend.

"It's smaller than it used to be, but it's a perfect size for us," Green said.

Scott McNeal, who founded the Macker 46 years ago and later brought it to Quincy, said Quincy's tournament is one of the most efficiently run in the nation.

"The Quincy Exchange Club has built the ultimate model," McNeal said.

He said several cities that are new to the Macker will be sending representatives to Quincy this weekend to learn how a good tournament should be operated.

"They're seeing how it runs," he said. "I'm very proud of what's happened here in Quincy after 29 years. It's kind of remarkable."

Green said the Macker perseveres because it continues to receive strong support from the community and from many dedicated Exchange Club members who give up their Memorial Day weekends each year to help make the tournament a success.

He pointed to people like Gary Hillebrenner and Bill Awerkamp who for years have come out on the Friday before the tournament begins to use fork lifts to haul the double-sided basketball hoops into position at taped-off courts situated along downtown streets.

Hillebrenner said he's happy to pitch in.

"I've been doing this for 20 years," he said. "On Friday night we put them out, and on Sunday night we pick them up and put them back on the truck."

Hillebrenner said club members are glad to do their part to help make the fundraiser a success. "It's something that everybody looks forward to," he said.

The blocked-off streets will be bustling with activity Saturday and Sunday -- something that local businesses owners have grown accustomed to over the years.

"I think it's great to bring this to the community," said Tricia DeJaynes, who owns the Convenient Chef business at Fifth and Hampshire with her husband, who was working in the shop Friday night while Tricia was watching their sons -- Jayce, 8, and Jaxton, 3 -- shoot baskets in the street.

"My husband is in there working, so I brought the kids down to play," DeJaynes said.

She said her husband is catering a wedding Sunday "so we had to make some arrangements to be able to get stuff in and out" while the streets are blocked. "The city has worked with us a lot to make sure that we're able to get in there."

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