Across Kansas, the Saturday following Thanksgiving is traditionally championship weekend for high school football — ringing even more true this year, as it marks the first time that the eight-man title games will be played on the same day as those for Class 6A through 2-1A.
Sixteen teams will be vying for eight titles in seven different cities on Nov. 25, with Newton being the only community to host two championship games that day. This marks the 12th year Newton has played host to the eight-man football finals, and while it is unclear just how the schedule may impact some facets of the games, the benefits of such an event remain clear.
"You have four schools and lots of visitors in town to attend that specific football game, but it also gives Newton a lot of good exposure to people who otherwise probably wouldn't have any reason to be here," said Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau coordinator Melody Spurney. "Hopefully they like what they see and perhaps want to come back sometime."
"Not very often are you able to bring that type of traffic into your community," said Pam Stevens, Executive Director of the Newton Chamber of Commerce. "We're really excited because most of those small towns, they send everybody to the games; the whole town goes. So, hopefully we'll realize some of that economic impact here with them eating, with them getting gas and then hopefully shopping in downtown Newton."
Work by the Newton Recreation Commission and superintendent Brian Bascue has fostered a relationship with the Kansas State High School Activities Association that has helped keep the eight-man championship games in Newton and Stevens noted she is grateful for that work.
It remains to be seen whether the schedule change will impact the weekend's festivities in any way, but both Stevens and Spurney see an even greater advantage with the games now falling when they do — at the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
"Boy, once Thanksgiving's over, it's like everybody's in the mode to shop for Christmas, so I think that'll really play in our favor," Stevens said.
"Possibly they'll choose to come earlier and they'll have more opportunity to enjoy a restaurant; maybe they'll come for dinner, maybe they'll spend a little time shopping or just experiencing Newton," Spurney said.
Games will start at 11 a.m. on Nov. 25. For more information on the championships, check The Kansan sports pages for more on the title contenders in upcoming editions or visit kshsaa.org.