By Tim Leeds
Have you ever housed, fed and entertained 700 guests? That's what Havre will be doing on Jan. 28-29.
More than 700 students, coaches, drivers and families are expected to arrive for the Class A-B-C State Speech and Drama Tournament. They will all need a place to stay, and something to do when they're not competing.
Booking of hotel and motel rooms in Havre began more than a year ago, said David Evans, of the Super 8 Motel. He said maybe a handful of the bookings are not for the tournament, but most are.
Every room in Havre is booked right now, Evans said, and more are needed. Some schools from around the state still don't have a place to stay. The need is great enough that some schools are booking rooms in Chinook, which was also done when the state tournament was held here two years ago.
Part of the problem is overbooking, Evans said. Each district of the Class A-B-C division can bring 48 students to the tournament. Some schools are booking enough rooms to house their entire district team in case all qualify for the State Tournament.
"They won't know how many qualify until after the weekend of the Jan. 22," Evans said. "We'll be reconfirming rooms after that weekend. I expect some of the (already booked) rooms will wash out then."
Charlie Klimas, the Havre High Activities Director, is also working on the problem. He said he has sent out letters reminding team coaches to cancel rooms they don't need after the district tournaments.
Evans said it's a busy time for the hotels.
"There's some extra work at the front desk, reconfirming, changing rooms, doing a lot of juggling," he said. But it's not any harder than managing high occupancy times during busy seasons, he said. The real stress is on the teams that currently don't have rooms.
Evans said he thinks enough rooms will be available in the end.
"We're just waiting for the week after qualifications to put the final touches on things, " he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to work everything out."
Evans, a member of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Athletic Committee, said business around the community should be up for the weekend. He said their committee, which bids on and helps organize the events, has been encouraging restaurants and retail businesses in community to be prepared for high traffic and extra business.
"This is nice for the hotels," he said. "It's coming at a slow time of year for us."
Many area businesses are preparing for the weekend. Judy Greenwood, owner of Taco John's and Yummy Yogurt in Havre, said any time an event brings people in to town things pick up.
"I anticipate getting some business," she said. "It will probably be bigger at Taco John's in the mall. They take busloads of students up there between competitions to stretch their legs, eat and shop."
Tiffany Korb, Holiday Village Mall Manager, also said she thinks traffic will be up. She said the last time the tournament was here business was good, and she expects the same this year.
Steve Harr, manager of the Havre Big K-mart, said they expect higher business too. While K-mart doesn't usually see the traffic increase from speech tournaments that they do from sports, he said the last tournament did add traffic for the weekend.
"We see more parents and fans at athletic events," he said. "At speech events they keep the students so busy they don't have much time. But most of the buses do stop and the kids get a chance to shop."
Business owners seemed supportive of the event.
"We have other tournaments coming up in February, March and April," Evans said. "But this is definitely the largest by the number of people to attend."
Greenwood said they are looking forward to the tournament.
"It's nice to see Havre getting the opportunity to host this and gaining some recognition," Harr said.