Organizers of several events in Hays this weekend are hoping for the best but keeping a wary eye on the forecast, which is calling for a blizzard on Saturday.
The 3-2-1A State Wrestling Tournament is likely the largest event in Hays this weekend, with 69 schools bringing 224 wrestlers along with coaches, family and fans, but Hays will also host the Mid America Youth Basketball Hays City Little Shoot Out and the 27th annual Smoky Hill Pheasants Forever banquet.
The basketball tournament is expecting 500 participants from the third to eighth grades along with their families. Play will the at Hays Recreation Center, Hays Middle School and Hays High School.
Pheasants Forever expects about 450 for the banquet, which starts at 5 p.m. at the Ellis County Fairgrounds, according to the group’s treasurer, Shayne Wilson.
“So far, I really haven’t heard a lot of people saying that they’re worried about it. But I’m figuring when Friday gets here, then we’ll start hearing about it,” Wilson said.
“We’ve had this in ice storms and we’ve had it in that terrible snowstorm we had back in February three or four years ago. We just continue. We hope for the best,” she said.
Len Melvin, a member of the organizing committee for the Little Shoot Out, said the forecast is causing some concern for the all-day tournament. Rescheduling is not likely a possibility, however.
“We’ve looked at every angle if we can move it into Sunday,” he said.
“Our tournament starts at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and ends at 9 p.m. Well you can’t do that on a Sunday for teams traveling from Ulysses, Holcomb, Manhattan,” he said. Many of the teams wait until Saturday morning to make the drive, he said.
The storm system is expected to begin Friday night as rain and changing over to snow Saturday morning, with gusty winds of 50 to 60 mph creating blizzard conditions.
Any changes in the schedule will be made as late as possible, Melvin said.
“We want to think it’s still going to happen until the weather tells us no,” he said.
That’s the same sentiment for Big Creek Crossing’s Wedding Showcase, scheduled fro 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The mall’s marketing director, Branson Hoffman, said plans are at this point are to “power through” and keep to the schedule.
“It’s pretty hard for us to reschedule some of the big events like this,” he said.
He said as of Wednesday afternoon he’d heard from only a couple of the 35 vendors with concerns about travel.
With the state wrestling tournament, the concern will be more about teams getting home safely, Mark Lentz, assistant director at the Kansas State High School Activities Association, said.
“About 90 percent of all our school will travel on Thursday,” he said.
“We will try to run ahead of schedule if we can, but we don’t want to minimize the importance of the state tournament by running too fast, either,” he said.
Lentz, who has been with KSHSAA for about nine years, said the tournament has had to make significant changes to its schedule only once due to the weather, about seven years ago when a storm dumped about 18 inches in the region. The schedule was pushed back about three hours after Interstate 70 was closed the the night before the tournament started.
“A lot of that had to do with keeping parking lots clear and allowing trucks to get out and clean highways,” he said.
Getting information out to all those interested was a bit more difficult then, but social media has made that easier today, he said.
Helping keep all the interested parties informed is a role the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau has taken on, Director Melissa Dixon said.
The annual championship, along with Special Olympics, is approaching near-100 percent occupancy for Hays’ 1,029 hotel rooms, she said.
“The good news is bad weather doesn’t stop wrestling families,” she said.
“We want to be sure that if anything changes, if there’s any schedule changes, that we can help get the word out,” Dixon said.
The CVB also takes steps to alert are businesses when events with a large draw are coming to town. A couple of years ago, a restaurant called the CVB and said they were blindsided by a tournament in town, and would have made different staffing schedules and food orders if they’d known.
That prompted Dixon, who had just taken over as CVB director, to start an email list — now a newsletter — to hotels and restaurants to keep them informed on upcoming events.