The Bitterroot is about to be invaded - in a friendly sort of way. For the next few weeks, outsiders will flock to the valley to attend sports tournaments being hosted in Hamilton. Over the next month, the Hamilton High School gym will play host to the state B/C wrestling tournament and several boys' and girls' basketball tournaments.
Valley schools have already hosted basketball and speech tournaments during the school year. Each of these tournaments has brought with it bus-loads of students, accompanied by teachers, chaperones, family and friends who get an up-close view of our community.
For each tournament school officials land, the community owes a debt of gratitude. In the next month, hotels and motels along with restaurants and retail shops will see hundreds of new faces walk through their doors. This boost in business should not be taken for granted.
It would have been easy for Hamilton school officials to simply let other schools around the state go through the challenges of hosting a sports tournament. They could have enjoyed their weekends off and relaxed at home. Coordinating volunteers, workers, facilities, hotels and information for each tournament is no small task.
Instead, they threw their hat in the ring and did something great for the community. The wrestling tournament alone is expected to bring more than $1 million into the local economy. That figure doesn't even include the speech and debate tournaments hosted earlier this year in Stevensville, Corvallis and Hamilton as well as the basketball tournaments in Hamilton. For their part, the schools don't make a dime. They receive the prestige of running a successful tournament and the knowledge that they are helping their community.
The impact these tournaments have on our local economy is significant. At a time of the year when tourism dollars are hard to come by, the schools bring in visitors for multiple nights, benefiting virtually every local business.
So be prepared Bitterroot citizens. Hundreds if not thousands of people are about to make their way to the Bitterroot Valley in the coming weekends. As you encounter longer lines at restaurants and retail stores, be patient and friendly as these visitors are guests in our community and we all benefit from their presence. Thank them for coming. But more importantly, thank the school district teachers and staff for bringing them here.