The last weekend of April is going to be a big lift for Gulf County, both literally and figuratively.
In a joint arrangement between Wewahitchka and Port St. Joe high schools announced last week, Gulf County Schools will host the Florida High School Athletic Association’s 2021 Boys Weightlifting State Championships for Class A1 and 2A, an event bringing in scores of athletes and their families and friends in from around the state.
Wewahitchka athletic director Coach Bobby Johns was a key voice for bringing the state championship to the county, and together with Port St Joe High School Athletic Director Tanner Jones, will co-chair this event.
“With over 25 years’ experience helping put on this competition at other venues across the state, (Coach Johns) was vital to helping land this opportunity for Gulf County,” said Superintendent Jim Norton.
Schools will be closed on Friday, April 23 as the Class 1A athletes compete at Port St. Joe High School’s R. Marion Craig Coliseum. On Saturday, the school will host the Class 2A competition.
“The privilege to host an FHSAA championship is a big deal,” said Norton. “And the fact that more than 400 student athletes, along with FHSAA officials, coaches, media, family and fans will converge on our area for this multi-day event makes it an especially great opportunity to showcase Gulf County.
“There’s already demand for over 200 hotels rooms and rental units,” he said. “As well as it is expected for local restaurants and attractions to benefit from the influx of visitors.”
The Tourist Development Council, together with the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce and the city of Port St. Joe, are working to bench press a joint outreach to make the best of this opportunity.
“Our goal is to create a way for them to stay longer or get into Gulf County sooner,” said Adrianne Glass, the TDC’s marketing director. “It’s a great introduction to our area.”
While the emphasis will be on keeping visitors in the county, she said that with room set-asides in place at both the Mainstay Suites and Port Inn, and vacation rentals filling up, “there’s definitely a possibility they might have to go to other counties,” Glass said.
“It’s an opportunity to have a respite before or after the competition,” she said.
She said the event should provide a boost to local restaurants and attractions during a period after spring break and before Memorial Day, when the influx of visitors is a little slower.
Revenues from the 5 percent bed tax have been running at a muscular pace, up 82 percent, with the county collecting $2.3 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year, after the pandemic downturn ended with record-setting months in both July nd August.
Glass said the chamber has been rounding up businesses and organizations to donate items for participation bags, that could offer a gateway to visitor enjoyment and involvement. “We want stuff to do when they’re here,” she said.
Tickets for the championship events will be available through Go Fan once all regional qualifying meets have concluded. Tickets will cost $9 per session if purchased in advance, and $12 per session if purchased the day of or at the door.
A complete time schedule will be released following regional qualifying. Due to capacity restrictions in place at each venue, the event(s) may sell out, so it is encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.
Where they're coming from
The following is a look at the schedule for the district and regional tournaments that will be leading up to the state championship.
#1 March 31 @ Baker
#2 March 30 @ Marianna
#3 April 1 @ Wewahitchka
#4 April 1 @ Maclay
#5 April 2 @ West Nassau
#6 March 30 @ Bolles
#7 April 1 @ Union County
#8 March 30 @ Keystone Heights
#9 March 31 @ South Sumter
#10 March 31 @ Cypress Creek
#11 March 31 @ Mount Dora
#12 March 31 @ Trinity Prep
#13 March 31 @ Frostproof
#14 April 1 @ Lemon Bay
#15 March 31 @ St. Edwards School
#16 April 2 @ Marathon
#1 April 10 @ Baker
#2 April 10 @ West Nassau
#4 April 10 @ Coral Shores
#1 April 1 @ Booker T. Washington
#2 April 2 @ Fort Walton Beach High School
#3 April 1 @ Suwannee High School
#4 March 31 @ Ridgeview High School
#5 March 31 @ St. Augustine
#6 March 31 @ Belleview High School
#7 April 2 @ Winter Springs
#8 April 2 @ Lecanto
# 9 April 2 @ Harmony
#10 March 30 @ Weeki Wachee
#11 April 3 @ Lake Wales
#12 March 31 @ River Ridge
#13 April 1 @ Sebring
#14 March 31 @ Charlotte
#15 April 1 @ Fort Myers
#16 March 31 @ LaBelle
#1 April 9 @ J R Arnold
# 5 & 6 April 7 @ St Augustine
#7 & 8 April 7 @ Leesburg
#3 April 8 @ River Ridge
#4 April 8 @ Charlotte
This article originally appeared on The Star: County lands boys weightlifting state championship