Gold Medal time is here again in Juneau. For many years now, basketball fans from all over Southeast Alaska have been attending the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament.
"The last one out, turn the lights out," said Duane Jack, 38, of Hoonah.
Jack estimates 80 percent to 90 percent of Hoonah's population will be in Juneau this week to watch the tournament.
Jack has been coming to Gold Medal since the late 1970s, when he started attending as a child with his father. Jack's grandfather, Harold Jack Sr., who passed away in 1996, attended the tournament every year for 50 years. Jack said his grandfather spoke often about the Hoonah teams that won the AA Bracket in 1962, 1965 and 1966.
Jack's father, Andrew Jack, played on the Hoonah teams that won during those years.
He and his wife, Bambi, attended the tournament as a family since 1995. The Jacks bring their kids, Jordan, 16, Andrew, 12, Mary, 8, and Duane Jr., 4.
The family starts saving money each year in the fall so they can attend the tournament together. Their son, Andrew, is developing his basketball skills by playing in the Southeast Shootout, which is a tournament for junior high school players that occurs at the same time as Gold Medal. Jordan is also a basketball player, and her high school team just returned from its regional tournament.
"You get to see all your friends and family and hang out," Jordan said about Gold Medal.
A TIME TO RECONNECT
Meanwhile, further up the bleachers, two long-time Gold Medal fans watched the Sunday afternoon Mighty B Bracket game between Klukwan and Yakutat.
Marcello Quinto, 67, from Juneau, and Milt DeAsis, 68, from Angoon sat together Sunday on the top row. Quinto looked around and pointed out numerous fans that attended the tournament for many years. Quinto was introduced to Gold Medal by his mother, who was a basketball fan. Quinto was born and raised in Juneau and attended the tournament for 59 years, since 1949.
He pointed towards a spot in the bleachers a couple of rows down from where he was sitting and said, "I sat in this corner right down below for the last 25 years."
As for a rooting interest, Quinto said, "I haven't had a chance to look them all over yet."
He said he enjoys watching the village teams play.
"You always have your favorites," he said. "Hoonah and Kake are fun to watch."
DeAsis remembered attending the tournament during the late 1940s when it was played at the Capital School gym on Fifth Street. The gym was packed and he sat in a small opening behind the backboard.
DeAsis now lives in Seattle but makes the trip to Juneau most years to watch the tournament.
"It's a good opportunity to see a lot of the people from the villages that I haven't seen for about a year," he said. "It's more of a social event. Unlike Marcel, I root for Angoon."
HOOPS AND HERRING
John Duncan, 65, from Sitka, is another old-timer attending the tournament this year.
He has been attending since 1964. Like many fans and players, Duncan is tied to more than one community in Southeast Alaska. He started attending Gold Medal as a high school student when he lived in Hoonah and played basketball for the Braves.
A union carpenter by trade, Duncan hasn't played basketball for many years but makes the trip every year to watch.
This is also the time of year when Duncan harvests herring eggs in Sitka. Herring eggs are a local delicacy and subsistence food eaten throughout Southeast.
Duncan said he and other Gold Medal fans sat together in the ferry cafeteria eating herring eggs while on their way to Juneau to watch basketball.
At 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the gym was about half full. Fans steadily trickled in, having arrived by plane or ferry from all over Southeast. Later in the week, socializing won't be as much of an option amid the shouts of loyal Gold Medal basketball fans.