Ethan Merchant blows past George Stevens Academy’s Jakob Ripton during a 2019 Great Harbor Shootout boys’ basketball game at Mount Desert Elementary School. The Great Harbor Shootout will make its return next week after a two-year hiatus. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL 

Great Harbor Shootout set for next weekend 

BAR HARBOR — The first sign two years ago that the world was about to change came in the form of an abrupt cancellation of one of the island’s biggest wintertime draws. 

As is custom every year, Harbor House organizers approached mid-March 2020 getting ready for their biggest annual event, the Great Harbor Shootout. Just a day before the tournament was set to begin, the then-novel coronavirus brought it to a halt. 

“You go from being ready for a huge tournament to have everything wiped out, just like that,” said Harbor House Event and Community Relations Director Diana Novella. “It was definitely a moment of, ‘Wow, things are really getting crazy.’” 

After a second cancellation last year, the Great Harbor Shootout is finally back. The tournament will be a bit smaller this year, but it will still bring hundreds of players from around the state to the Mount Desert Island area for three days of basketball.

This year’s Great Harbor Shootout will run from next Friday, March 18, through Sunday, March 20. The event will feature 64 basketball teams from around the state competing at five locations throughout the island area.

Sixty-four teams are slightly fewer than the usual for the Great Harbor Shootout, which drew a record 83 teams in 2019 and was set to break that record at 86 in 2020 before the cancellation. Yet even if that marginally smaller field was necessary as a result of COVID-19 mitigations, it will make for a packed week of basketball all over the island.

“We didn’t know how many teams we were going to get, but we’re excited for what we have,” Novella said. “We have a wait list, and we were able to take the most teams we could possibly take. Sixty-four teams is a great number.”

With players, coaches, parents, fans and tournament volunteers set to descend on MDI next week, the event will be a big draw. Novella estimated the 2020 event would have brought approximately 4,000 to 5,000 people to the area prior to its cancellation. 

The lack of a tournament bringing those parties to the area the past two years has been a major loss for the island’s hospitality industry. It’s also been unfortunate for Harbor House, which has been able to make do thanks to some generous donors but is more than happy about the return of its biggest fundraising event. 

“We’ve been lucky, but we have had to make some changes to some of the things we’ve been doing,” Novella said. “The money from it goes to toward our sports programs, so it’s great to have it back. We’re ready for a great tournament.” 

This will be the 29th edition of the tournament, which was first held in 1992. Games will be played at MDI High School, Mount Desert Elementary School, Pemetic Elementary School, Trenton Elementary School and the MDI YMCA. The field will consist of 20 boys’ and girls’ high school teams each and 12 boys’ and girls’ middle school teams each. 

Although the tournament was originally slated to have a mask requirement for players and spectators and no concession stands, those plans were made prior to the MDI Regional School System’s decision Monday to make masks optional in the districts. New guidelines are in the works but had not been announced as of press time Wednesday.

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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