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Rivertown Days Tennis Tournament celebrates 40 years

The Rivertown Days Tennis Tournament, which along with Rivertown Days is celebrating 40 years this year, is held at the high school courts by the water tower and the courts at Roadside Park. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
The courts are Roadside Park allow players to compete under the lights during the Rivertown Days Tennis Tournament. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

This year will be the 40th Rivertown Days, a true milestone. When Rivertown Days began so did the Rivertown Days Tennis Tournament. The tennis tournament was there from the start and is the only continuous Rivertown Days event. It is interesting how a conversation can start something that has lasted for nearly 40 years.

Donita Soucek, a member of the Hastings Women's Tennis League, was visiting with Betty Houle at LeSalon, a local beauty salon. Houle was one of the original organizers of Rivertown Days. At the time, no events were scheduled for youth so Houle suggested to Soucek that the Women's Tennis League could run a tennis tournament, and so it began. That first year there were only eight boys and eight girls in grades 10-12 who played. Matches were held at both Roadside Park, the high school tennis courts and in the early years at the Hastings Country Club. Play began on Thursday evening and ended on Sunday evening. Rain delays, like today, definitely caused stress. The installation of lights at the Roadside Courts helped more than once with scheduling play later into the evening.

To make the tournament a reality, there were many people behind the scenes. Along with Soucek and Lois Wroge (the other co-chair), the tournament was organized by the 48-member Hastings Women's Tennis League. A sub-committee of members organized, planned and handled sign-ups, but when the event took place all league members were expected to help serve as court attendants. Without the league members volunteering, this tournament would not have been possible.

Year by year the tourney grew. It expanded to include students in grades 4-12 and adults, along with singles, doubles and mixed doubles events offered for all ages and skill levels. Today, the tournament has over 200 registrants and the age of players range from 10 to 75. After 20 years, Soucek and Wroge stepped down as tournament co-chairs and the tournament leadership continued under the direction of Margaret Cox, Cindy Olson, Cindy Toppin and Missy Williams, as well as many other women's league members. Today the Rivertown Days Tennis

Tournament is organized under the umbrella of Hastings Tennis Association (HTA). The HTA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve the community of Hastings by offering tennis programs to both youth and adults.To learn more about HTA, visit the organization's website, www.hastingstennis.org.

The net proceeds are used to support many things, including funding college scholarships for deserving male and female tennis athletes, purchase a ball machine for the middle school, build a tennis shed at the high school court and provide player benches for all the tennis courts in town.The 40th Rivertown Days is July 20-22 with the Rivertown Days Tennis Tournament running Thursday, July 19, through Sunday, July 22. You can view details about and register for the tournament at www.hastingstennis.org.

The Hastings Women's Tennis League had no idea that in 1979 a request to provide a single event for youth during the first Hastings Rivertown Days would result in an annual tennis tournament all these years later. Some of the current players are grandchildren of the early tournament players. And as they have done almost every year since adult events were offered, Soucek and Wroge will be playing women's doubles in the 40th annual tennis tournament.

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