WALLINGFORD — A local youth soccer league is slated to host the 35th annual tournament this weekend, bringing hundreds of guests to local businesses.
The 35th Annual Wallingford Invitational Soccer Tournament (TWIST) will run from August 17 to 19 on various fields throughout town. Boys and girls from ages 9 to 19 years old, will compete in a series of games based on their age division. TWIST Co-Director Dave Rodriguez said the tournament will be the largest one yet.
“Last year’s tournament we put together a plan to increase the number of teams because we wanted to celebrate 35 years,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be a busy weekend in Wallingford.”
Rodriguez said there will be 97 teams competing, each with an average of 17 players. There will be 198 games at different fields throughout the town. Fields are located at Choate Rosemary Hall, East Center Street, Pragemann Park, Woodhouse Avenue, Sheehan High School, and Lyman Hall High School.
Rodriguez said the Hartford Athletic team will attend the tournament to assist players in training sessions and handing out information and promotions on tickets for games in Hartford. Rodriguez said the presence of a professional team at the tournament will add something to the event.
Mayor William Dickinson Jr. said the success of the event and its contributions to the town have been a testament to the hard work put in by volunteers and municipal employees. He said the volunteers have been consistent in the organization and hard work put into the tournament every year. Dickinson said the event draws in teams from across the state, country and at times international guests, to utilize town offerings such as restaurants, retail stores and hotels.
“Teams arrive with family members and friends and all those people end up staying here,” Dickinson said.
Mary Carol “M.C.” Bradley has worked with the tournament since her children first joined 11 years ago. Bradley has worked on the tournament’s merchandise, marketing and social media and will retire this year. She said working with the tournament has been a wonderful experience and is proud of the impact it has had in the town. Bradley said she considers TWIST to be a celebration of the town because it encompasses so many aspects of the town from residents, officials and local businesses.
“One of the things we pride ourselves in is the town of Wallingford,” Bradley said. “People who come (to the tournament) are very impressed with the area, the kids and the downtown area.”
Bradley said each year a tournament book is created which collects proceeds for the scholarships. She said the book, in addition to sponsorship banners, is a way for local businesses to gain recognition to hundreds of people.
“Part of the fundraising before we do a tournament book is we sell ads,” Bradley said. “You start doing the math and it really does show.”
Rodriguez said the tournament has awarded around $190, 000 in scholarships to former players, volunteers, and members involved with the tournament throughout the years to use for higher education. The TWIST Scholarship focuses on high school seniors from Wallingford who have served the community and have been involved with the soccer league.
“With the cost of education every little bit helps,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been a great experience for us to provide these awards.”