Kathy MacLean figures the answer to why Gus Macker Basketball has been a huge summer hit in Ludington for 27 years is as simple as location, location, location.
“Who wouldn’t want to play basketball at the beach?”
Ludington is a Lake Michigan beach town that annually attracts 800 to 900 teams to play 3-on-3 in the sun. It typically is one of the first Macker traveling maniacs put on their travel schedules, and the one tournament most experienced players will tell you is a must-play.
“Ludington has a perfect setting and the community, sponsors and volunteers continue to support it tremendously,” Scott McNeal, a.k.a. Gus Macker, says. “It takes all those people working together and passing on their knowledge and keeping people enthused. It’s a great Macker. It’s one of those that people who love Mackers, love to talk about.”
MacLean, president and CEO of the Ludington-Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, said the scene and the feelings it create never get old when the Macker is underway.
“The thing I think about is standing in the park, looking around and it is a festival,” she said. “There are so many people and everybody is having a good time. Whether they are watching or playing, they are having fun. It’s just such a cool feeling to be at this great festival on the beach.”
The Ludington community continues to embrace Macker each time as if it was being played for the first time.
“It’s a lot of work for a lot of people, but it is an event we love,” she said. “Economically it has been so great for our community. A good portion of the proceeds go to Ludington area schools athletic programs. The fact volunteers are still with us 27 years later says a lot about our community. And we should mention how supportive the City of Ludington is with the Police Department, the City employees doing set-up and tear-down of fencing, preparing the park and cleaning up afterward.”
MacLean said Macker has had an economic impact on Ludington beyond the obvious dollars spent by what she estimates is about 12,000 to 15,000 people who accompany the roughly 3,600 players each year.
“I personally know of people who have purchased homes or summer homes here because of being exposed to Ludington through Macker,” she said.
Ludington on a beautiful summer day plays out with postcard views, and rivals beach towns anywhere as a perfect setting for family fun.
“To me, the coolest thing that has happened in the 25 years is that now there are sometimes three generations from the same families playing,” MacLean said. “We have the kids, the 20 somethings, the 40 and 50 somethings. There are people who make it a family vacation, even kind of a family reunion.”