PAGE – Every late November and early December, the faithful start putting up their Christmas decorations and go to bazaars in cities all over the world. But in Page-Lake Powell Country, the faithful go to the Lake Powell Holiday Classic where they enjoy pass-cut-and-shoot style of hoops, popcorn, and maybe even a Navajo Taco for two weekends.
Holiday Classic-goers watch their favorite teams scamper out of the locker room and sprint across the floor inside the gymnasium at Page High School, bounce up and down and then spring to the hoops for layups while rap music usually plays over the sound system.
And neither the Sand Devils nor their archrivals will stop running until the final buzzer sounds. This is the 41st Holiday Classic, a Christmas tradition for many and a deep-rooted sense of home for those who have to leave for school, for work, or who have moved away.
“It seems like every year we have (Page High) alumni come back like Nigel who played on the team a couple years ago,” said Ernie Rivers, activities and athletics director for both Page High and Page Middle School, who has been involved with this event for three years. “We had (boys’ basketball) coach Skubal’s family that came in (to watch) Kingman Academy (Kingman, Arizona). His son, (senior guard Treyvor Skubal) plays on that team.”
He continued, saying, “But it just seems like every year we get alumni coming back that are helping out in one capacity or the other, or volunteering and doing something, coming to support their teammates. So, it’s a really great opportunity for the whole community to come together and support one another.”
For 41 years, the Navajo Generating Station has been sponsoring this annual event where the girls’ varsity basketball team plays in the first weekend and the boys’ varsity follows the next weekend.
It is most likely that this will be NGS’s last year of sponsoring the Holiday Classic should the plant shut down in December 2019, said Rivers in an interview with the Lake Powell Chronicle Saturday afternoon after a game between the Sand Devils and the Kingman Tigers.
So, Dixie Ellis, owner of the Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, has graciously stepped in, said Rivers.
“That’s part of the reason we changed it from ‘NGS Holiday Classic’ to the ‘Lake Powell Holiday Classic’ because they’ve been co-sponsoring the last couple of years,” Rivers explained. “We made that change two years ago. So, my first year when I came in, I was informed that NGS may be closing and that we needed to get some help.”
The Holiday Classic is a self-sustaining tournament, said Rivers. And if money is not made at the gate and if there is no sponsorship, it would be difficult to continue the tournament.
“Right now, we don’t charge anything for the tournament fees,” Rivers said. “We also purchase and pay … the hotels for the (invited) teams. And Dixie Ellis donates tours for the teams. The community comes out to really support this. We don’t want it to collapse, especially since it’s been going on for 41 years.”
Rivers added that the Holiday Classic kicks off the basketball and Christmas season, during which the Sand Devils take off at a gallop.