Organizers and coaches remember Rotary Holiday Classic tournmant

It’s a tournament that’s become tradition for many, and after 34 years, it’s coming to a close.
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 8:38 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – It’s a tournament that’s become tradition for many, and after 34 years, it’s coming to a close.

“It’s a fun tradition to not only be able to play great competition down there, but to also get to see some of the public-school teams that we wouldn’t typically get to see, and it’s always just quality basketball,” Lourdes Varsity Boys Basketball coach Eric Larson said.

Coach say the Holiday Classic saw some of the best matchups between schools from all across the state.

“Very rarely do you see a team that’s not competing with the best of the best there,” Larson said.

Organizers say they’re ending the event because of rising costs of hosting the tournament, lack of interest from teams outside of the region and fewer volunteers.

“It takes a lot of volunteers to put an event like this together. We get started every year around right after this tournament ends, planning the next one and we just have fewer people to call on,” Rochester Holiday Classic co-chair Jon Losness said.

There are some longtime volunteers who helped put on the event every year like Mike Van Straaten who played in the first Holiday Classic back in 1988. Van Straaten is a John Marshall alum.

“Back then it was so small with a lot of regional games, so if I remember we had good games against Winona and Red Wing,” he said.

Throughout its run, the tournament helped raise more than a million dollars for youth charities in Rochester like the Boys and Girls Club and Families First.

“This was a game to not only keep up with basketball in the state, but then also give back to the community,” Van Straaten said.

“We just have to look for other ways to provide value in the community,” Losness said.

Coaches say teams used the tournament to connect with each other and get prepared for playoffs.

“It was a time for the teams to bond together and that really spring boarded them into a run to go to state,” Van Straaten said.

“Anytime that you step into that building, there’s just kind of a buzz and you’re just kind of extra excited to be there and play,” Larson said.

It’s a tough goodbye for some longtime organizers and coaches.

“There’s a little bit of sadness on my end just being that it’s a fun tradition and to see that go away is obviously hard,” Larson said.

“It’s really bittersweet. It’s tough. It’s still a huge passion of mine and so that’s going to be leaving a void, but the most important thing is that we go out in a celebratory manner,” Van Straaten said.

“We’re going to celebrate this. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to call on the good times that we had, and we’re going to go out with a great tournament,” Losness said.

The final Rotary Tournament is December 29th and 30th. There are twelve boys’ team and twelves girls’ teams participating.