Crown Point’s Bulldog Park was the place to be Thursday night as thousands gathered to celebrate the National Softball Association (NSA)’s Even & Odd Age North World Series Opening Ceremony. The Northwest Indiana leg of the tournament, hosted by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority (CVA), features hundreds of teams across the Midwest who have come together for a week-long series of games throughout the Region filled with fun sportsmanship and friendly competition.
The opening ceremony was a way to celebrate the teams participating. Many of the girls, along with their coaches, friends, and families, were present and decked out in colorful, creative costumes as they walked around Bulldog Park in a parade, giving each group a chance to shine. To add to the excitement, many other activities were available for all to enjoy. Those activities included vendors, food trucks, a beer garden, a DJ, and activities including a braid bar, obstacle courses, laser tag, a photo booth, face painting, and much more.
“This is one of the highlights of the tournament because this brings every player, every coach, every family member to our one area to get away from the competition feeling and make memories of a lifetime, based on your experience here this year,“ said South Shore CVA CEO Dave Uran.
Crown Point also mimicked that excitement and was ecstatic to have the teams playing in the Region, as well as the opening ceremony right in Bulldog Park.
“It's been fantastic so far,” said Crown Point Mayor Pete Land. “Teams from all over the Midwest, a great part of the country, are all converging at Crown Point for tonight's opening ceremonies. We have an enormous crowd having fun and so many great costumes and, it’s just a great vibe and great atmosphere. We're excited to have them here in Crown Point. We've been working hard to get us to this point of welcoming all the teams in and now it’s go time.”
Uran has been in two major roles over the years to help bring the Fastpitch World Series to Northwest Indiana. He was previously in Land’s role as Crown Point’s mayor before stepping into his position at the South Shore CVA, and both experiences have given him a unique insight to add to the tournament’s experience, really making this year’s event one for the books.
“We have these facilities that were built here in the city recently, and I’ve been able to see the value of what tourism brings in from the private side and the public side, so I’ve been marrying those two together,” he said. “It's been very exciting, and I can see the value of what we did and it's paying off.”
The tournament has also drawn a great crowd to Northwest Indiana, inviting people to check out many of the unique shops and businesses Crown Point and the Region have to offer.
“It's definitely a boon to our economy,” Land said. “Not only do the teams come in to play here, they get to try our food here, and they frequent our downtown business and every other place that we have to offer, so economically for the City of Crown Point, this is a great one.”
While the boost to the Region's businesses has been a great outcome from the competition, seeing everyone enjoy themselves at the ceremony was really the highlight of it all.
“My favorite part is seeing all the players in their costumes,” Land said. “You can tell they put in a lot of time, a lot of thought, and they're all having fun with it with their pictures.”
The opening ceremony was a way to bring team members and others together who may not have had a chance to interact otherwise. It was an opportunity to make friends and make memories that can go a long way off the field. While the tournament is only a week-long, these connections and moments easily have the potential to last a lifetime.
“The opening ceremony here tonight is my favorite part. It’s such a great feeling to see them exchange their pins, make friends that maybe they've seen on the field, and who knows how those relationships are going to evolve?” Uran said. “They might be on the same college team, or they may be gravitating towards just a friendship or even a potential employment opportunity, but just having the opening ceremonies and the parade lets us see how much they really care and want to showcase their team - this that's what means everything why softballs is what it is.”
This tournament would also not be made possible without all the help from the local communities throughout the Region, as well as the dedicated staff of the South Shore CVA to truly make this event a home run.
“I have to thank the communities of Dyer, Schererville, Highland, Crown Point obviously, and all the way out to La Porte for putting all these accomplices together to be able to host this large event,” Uran said. “There's a lot of people, we get to play a part of this, the superintendents, the elected officials, and just the staff of the organization from our CVA to La Porte’s CVA to work together to make sure this is a great experience for all the players, coaches and their families.”
“We want to say thank you for trusting the South Shore and making sure that this tournament continues to come to Northwest Indiana - we'd love to have the Odds and Even World Series here each and every year,” Uran said.
The tournament is still going strong in the Region, with games happening all the way through Sunday, July 23. For more information, visit the website here, and for more information on all the fun events South Shore CVA has in store for Northwest Indiana, visit its website here.