Metlakatla plays Klukwan in the Gold Medal Tournament on Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Mollie Barnes | Juneau Empire)

Metlakatla plays Klukwan in the Gold Medal Tournament on Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Mollie Barnes | Juneau Empire)

A ‘gathering of family’: Gold Medal Tournament kicks off in Juneau

The 73rd annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament began Sunday

To Ted Burke from the Juneau Lions Club, the annual basketball tournament in Juneau is a “gathering of family.”

The 73rd annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament began Sunday, welcoming players and fans from across Southeast. The week centers around basketball, and although most say they want to see their team win, most said they’re also excited about seeing people from around the area.

“Us Lions who are from Juneau get to reestablish relationships with all of the communities that come up here,” said Burke. “I’ve been doing this with these people for 32 years. I see them once a year, and it’s just like I’ve been with them all year long. So that’s one of the most favorite things for me. It’s the greatest basketball you’re ever going to see.”

When Delores Starr and Lillian Jamestown were asked what they were looking forward to this week, the two sisters from Angoon said simultaneously, “For our team to win.”

They said they are staying for nine days, and have been coming to Juneau for the annual basketball tournament for what feels like “forever.”

“We eat out and we get our hair done,” said Starr. “We meet family and we shop. Our whole family comes up. We get to cheer and have fun, and we visit a lot.”

This is why we want the ferry. All these people come on the ferry. They bring their cars, their families. If there’s no ferry, come Gold Medal time, how are they going to get here?” Starr said.

[Beyond the budget: What are the options to extend ferry service past October?]

The tournament this year has representation from 11 communities across Southeast Alaska, Burke said. All of which he said benefit from the tournament.

“With our profits from this tournament we give a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating high school member (from each community),” he said. They’ve been doing this program for years.

About $23,000 was distributed last year to various nonprofits around Juneau and the surrounding area from the tournament profits, Burke said.

Burke said there’s an endless amount of things the tournament does for the community. For example, he cited figures from last year. Students volunteer to work the food booth and the money goes back to their school organizations.

“It’s nothing for these young men and women to make anywhere between $9,000 and $17,000 for their school organization, so it helps the school budget,” Burke said. “We just think it’s the most fantastic thing to have the young men and women, not only learn about volunteerism but help the school budget.”

• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at

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