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Basketball lovers gather at 'Hooplandia' for a weekend of fun

Kids warm up on the court before tournaments begin for the weekend.
Caitlin Reardon
Kids warm up on the court before tournaments begin for the weekend.

Hooplandia kicked off the weekend-long festival with competitions, vendors, music and hoops-galore

Basketball players young and old gathered at the Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts, on Friday to kickoff "Hooplandia", a basketball festival and competition that celebrates the Springfield-born sport.

Officials said the event is the largest three-on-three competition on the East Coast, and allows any and all teams at different skill sets to enter the tournament. From children under eight-years-old to active military members, the competition joins together many different player experiences under one common passion — basketball.

As basketballs bounced and hoops swished on the many courts set up at the fairgrounds, parents and coaches cheered on their jersey-adorned basketball stars from the benches. Off the court, attendees enjoyed food trucks, vendors and music.

The festival kicked off today with former WNBA player and Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Lobo who presented the opening ceremony. Kids were looking forward to meeting Lobo, a Southwick native, and expressed their excitement for competing with friends and teammates. The weekend tournaments begin today, but players were eager to participate in yesterday’s Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and Jersey Jam.

Lilly Gonzalez, joined by her dad and coach Freddie Tosado, has been playing basketball since she was little. Competing this weekend, Gonzalez said she is ready to “shoot some buckets, meet different people, and yeah, have fun.”

“This whole experience is dope. All the vendors that are here, the opportunity for the children to compete on a 3-on-3, just giving them the experience of this whole basketball environment,” Tosado said.

Visiting from Meriden, Conn., Jonathan Gonzalez, parent and coach of his ten-year-old, said that he looks forward to seeing his son’s progress in the sport.

“He’s learning a lot from where he was previously. He’s nowhere near where I used to play at so it took me to actually see that he’s actually taking off in this and excelling so now I’m taking more of an interest," he said. "So now I’ve decided to step up and actually help with the coaching... give him a little insight on what I now know and things I learned late... and hopefully he can actually do something with it."

Hooplandia festivities will continue throughout the weekend.

Eighth-grader and tournament competitor Angel Stewart encourages the community to join in on the fun, saying “Come watch us play!”

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