With a sigh of relief, Sharon Lee counted down the seconds before the clock turned to 10 a.m. Sunday, signifying the opening tip-off of the 62nd annual Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament.
"Three, two, one, and it is finally here," she said.
With the countdown over, a small but enthusiastic crowd brought the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium to life with cheers.
"The excitement, there's lots of excitement in the air," fan George Paul said about opening day.
Joining together and reuniting with friends had Paul, along with many of the spectators, glad to be in attendance for the inaugural game.
"We Alaskans are so busy with hunting and fishing and things like that," said Bob Anderson of Yakutat and Juneau. "One of the big things about Gold Medal is it is the one place and one time where you do get to see old friends and relatives."
As people entered the front doors of the JDHS commons, volunteers smiled, people shook hands, and familiar faces instantaneously appeared from behind playful, yet startling taps on the shoulder. Grins and good cheer seemed abundant, as spectators appeared to feel right at home.
For decades, people attending the event have entered the gym as though entering a familiar place, sitting down in their regular location.
"It seams like everybody gets their same place in the stands, I noticed," Paul said.
Paul's wife, Velma, who grew up in Angoon and moved to Juneau in 1976, noticed a school friend sitting across the gym.
"I like to look around and see family and friends that I just haven't seen in a while," she said. "I know where they are going to sit."
Reacquainting with friends and catching up with the family usually mean seeing them sitting somewhere and going over to say hello, but for closer chums and relatives, it may mean ringing them across the gym on the cell phone.
Charlie Williams and his friend sat on opposing benches. From opposite sides of the bleachers they rang each other to talk basketball, politics, economics, and just about everything under the sun.
"Gold Medal is very enjoyable and all about having a good time," said Williams. "That is why we come together."
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