First Opening Ceremonies Flyover Experienced in Morris, Illinois
The Morris, IL Gus Macker tournament was held the weekend of June 5th and 6th, and is the first tournament that the Flying Knueppel Brothers attended as “celebrity guests”. It was also the first tournament we have attended that had a flyover as part of the opening ceremony celebration.
We met the Morris organizers, Missy Durkin and Deb Baker at the Gus Macker national convention in Oconomowoc, WI in February of 2004. We hit it off right away, and together we came up with the idea of having the Flying Knueppel Brothers travel to Morris to put on a 3-on-3 exhibition on the Saturday of the tournament. In between that meeting in February and the tournament in June, we worked out the details of the trip with the Morris staff.
One of the promotional things we did prior to the tournament was participating in a radio interview with WCSJ in Morris. We talked about the family atmosphere of the Macker tournaments and how much we enjoyed playing in tournaments that were set in historic downtown settings. At the end of the interview, we told the radio audience that we would be holding a 7 am shoot-around on the Saturday morning of the tournament, and that anyone who wanted to join us would be welcome.
On the weekend of the tournament, we arrived in Morris on Friday night and found the tournament site. It was a great setting for a tournament, and it got us even more excited about being a part of it.
On Saturday morning at 7am, the Flying Knueppel Brothers gathered at the Top Men’s court for their customary early morning shoot-around. There were a couple of dozen people that stopped by to say hello. In addition, WCSJ sent a reporter down to do a “live” radio interview with us from center court. It was a great morning shoot-around! At 8am, Opening Ceremonies began with the introduction of the Macker staff and the Morris organizing committee. Then the National Anthem was played on the trumpet with the VFW color guard presenting the flag at center court, and overhead a WWII biplane did a perfectly timed flyover - A first in Gus Macker history. Dick Steele, a local radio legend then hit the "Do or Die" shot to open the tournament.
At Noon on Saturday, we took to the Top Men’s court for our 3-on-3 exhibition. Tony Wysinger introduced us as the reigning Top Men’s World Champions, Gus Macker Hall of Famers, and winners of 23 Top Men’s Championships holding an overall record of 154-34. Kole got the crowd warmed up with a chant:
After the presentation, the afternoon was left for Klint’s and Klay’s wives to hit downtown Morris for some shopping. They found some great stores and they rated their shopping trip as outstanding.
On Saturday night, we were invited to a party at the Eagle’s Club hosted by Dr. Rezin, who was also one of the primary sponsors of the Gus Macker tournament. We met many wonderful people from Morris at the party. It was a great time, and reinforced in us the desire to return to Morris next year for the Gus Macker tournament. At 11:30, one of the organizers dressed up in the Mackerman outfit and led everyone down Liberty Street to a Martini bar called 312. They make Macker martinis there only one time each year (the Saturday night of the Macker tournament). It’s a secret recipe that is known only to the bar owner. All in all, Saturday was an unbelievable day in Morris, IL.
On Sunday morning, we enjoyed breakfast and an easy morning of relaxation. We were very happy that we were not actually playing in the tournament. It was nice to be able to enjoy the weekend in a relaxed mode. At 10am, Klint and Klay had a tee time at the Morris Country Club set up by the Morris organizing committee. We met John Keegan, the golf pro at the country club, who also is a key sponsor of the Macker event. We had a great time visiting with him, and he invited us to come back whenever we are in the area.
Klay and I got a quick round of golf in, and then headed back downtown to say good-bye to everyone. We saw “Ice” Mike Ayers and went over to talk to him. They had just lost a tough game on the Top Men’s court. He asked how we were doing, and we said “Great, we just got off the golf course!” That response had everyone within earshot laughing and enjoying our good fortune.
Early afternoon on Sunday, we loaded up the families and drove back to Milwaukee. We talked all the way back about where we could travel to next, and how we could make our presentation even better.
Thank you to Morris, Illinois for a wonderful weekend!