Over 1,000 players, partners, and other participants are just a few days away from descending on the Fort Lauderdale area to enjoy the 24th annual Hurricane Showdown softball tournament during Thanksgiving weekend.
The event, which also brings together local sponsors and businesses, provides a safe environment for the LGBT community and their supporters to gather and compete.
"I love it, to tell you the truth," says Tournament Director Michael Moody. "This tournament represents my league, which I love. It's in my town, my home, and I love to show it off to the world."
Moody expects around 55 teams to play November 24-26 at Mills Pond Park in Fort Lauderdale and Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City.
The tournament's events will begin on Wednesday, Nov. 22, with an opening party for locals and early birds at Alibi Monkey Bar. There will be parties every night through the weekend, with The Pub hosting a free orphan's Thanksgiving Dinner and registration party on Thursday night, GYM Bar on Friday night, Scandals late Saturday afternoon, and Southern Nights on Saturday night.
All return to the Alibi on Sunday night for Closing Ceremony and trophy presentations.
The host hotel is the Courtyard by Marriott, just a few steps from the sandy beach and Atlantic Ocean.
"Out-of-town teams are very excited and can't wait to play," Moody says. "Some set their schedules around this weekend."
One such city is Toronto, which sends two teams for the entire week. Those teams come early, rent a house or two near the beach, do some sightseeing around the region, and then conclude their week playing softball.
"They make this their routine," Moody says.
The tournament sports three divisions of play: D Division, C Division and B Division. All teams play three round-robin games to determine seeding for the double-elimination tournament, which begins Saturday early afternoon. Winning trophies will be awarded to the top teams in all three divisions, and this year each winning player will receive a duffle bag at the Closing Ceremony on Sunday night at the Alibi.
All teams coming early will play late afternoon/early evening Friday at Mills Pond Park. Some teams then travel to Piccolo Park for play on Saturday and Sunday morning, and all divisions will return to Mills Pond on Sunday afternoon for the championship games. All are encouraged to come to Mills on Sunday, Moody says, as the tournament will be giving away prizes like weekend stays at local resorts, dinners for two at area restaurants, softball bats, "and other stuff."
Friday night also features a home run derby at Mills Pond, with all proceeds going to The Poverello Center.
Food by P.C. Concessions and beer will be available at both fields. Breakfast sandwiches and coffee will also be served for those teams playing in the mornings. Dirt Athletic will offer a variety of sportswear for purchase to mark the tournament.
Planning for the event is year-round, Moody says. "It starts with a couple hours a week in March, and ramps up to five hours a day in November," he says.
Other than weather, the main challenge is fairness to make sure all teams are on an equal playing field.
"Tournaments are open season for power teams to tip the balance," Moody explains. "I take this very seriously and appreciate the help of league commissioners from around the country who do their best to make sure players are rated correctly."
All players will receive bracelets to mark their participation. These bracelets can be worn to secure discounts at local businesses not just during Thanksgiving weekend, but through the rest of the holidays in December. All volunteers will get a specially designed T-shirt.
"They are distinctive this year," Moody beams. "just like last year, people will definitely want to wear them again!"
Prudential is the main sponsor of the tournament. Other businesses assisting with the event are Impact Imagery, Realtors Kenny Silverman and Scott Ryan, Moody Electric, Impact Imagery as well as South Florida Gay News and Hot Spots.
"I'm excited," Moody says. "I have great volunteers, I have new teams coming, and teams say they can't wait to play. As always, I want to do this right.