LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Dirt Bowl has become one of the most popular sporting events in the city.
Sunday, the 50th Dirt Bowl kicked off in its birthplace in Algonquin Park.
It’s a summer-long tournament that has evolved way past just being about basketball.
It’s all about community and togetherness, but above all, positivity, despite the rain throwing a wrench in the kickoff plans. Although the weather forced things to shut down early, they were still able to squeeze in a game.
When you’re out there on the court, the joy and energy is palpable.
“Once you get on that team, you know you got a whole summer of getting on that court,” Frank Jones said.
Jones has been a player and coach since the very beginning, back in 1969.
The summer long tournament was started by Ben Watkins and Janis Carter Miller in Algonquin Park.
“Then it was just a recreational thing now it’s more like an everyday thing everybody’s coming out every year after year, after year,” Jones said.
What started out as a bunch of rec center teams, quickly exploded and was moved to Shawnee Park, where each year rising stars hit the courts alongside big name athletes and celebrities.
“Darrell Griffin came to us at half time and said ‘can I play with your team’ and I said ‘yeah you could play,’” Jones remembered fondly as his favorite moment.
Even with ominous skies creeping in, the community showed up in force to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
Organizers showed off a replica of the future historical marker for the park.
“I can’t even explain to you how it feels. It feels good. It’s a part of my legacy,” co-founder Janis Carter Miller said.
Don’t blink, or you’ll miss Miller. She’s been running around and working hard since day one to provide something more than just a tournament.
“This is one place to come share your talents every weekend in the park with an audience,” Miller said. “Families, friends, everybody can come and support you it doesn’t matter what side of the city you live on come play in the Dirt Bowl.”
Miller said she’s seen so much happen because of what she’s started.
“Having the celebration here today got lines on the court,” Miller said with a smile. “That’s a big deal!”
What’s most important for Miller, is the togetherness it creates.
“When we first started there was a lot of racial riots going on and the Dirt Bowl down here in Algonquin Park, brought everyone down,” she said. “They came to the park, black and white, didn’t matter. They came, they played, they were supported, they were cheered, it was a wonderful situation. It’s been the catalyst for the community coming together.”
“There’s nothing like when the West End comes together to celebrate a great sport together,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “Great food, people from all over the neighborhood, family reunions taking place. It just shows you we’re one city. We all enjoy basketball. It’s wonderful to see it.”
Although the celebration had to call it quits early. The official tournament starts Saturday at Shawnee Park. It will continue all summer long, ending with a banquet in August.