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Hoopfest draws crowds despite 102-degree heat

They drank a lot of water. They wrapped their heads with wet towels. They sat in the shade close to fans and misting stations. Some found sanctuary between games in air-conditioned spaces.

But those at Hoopfest never seemed to consider staying home to avoid Saturday’s record-breaking 102-degree heat.

Fans packed the sidewalks on the shady south side of the streets while the sidewalks on the opposite side of the streets were nearly empty except for the occasional person standing in the meager shade of a small street tree.

Several downtown buildings offered air-conditioned spaces to rest. The lower level of City Hall was open and Hoopfest activities were streaming on the big screen in the City Council chambers.

Teams of paramedics patrolled the streets looking for people in trouble. And the heat took its toll. The Rockwood Health System reported treating 35 people for dehydration at its medical tents as of 5:30 p.m. There were also 98 sprains and strains and two broken bones reported.

Spokane Fire Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said his department responded to 58 calls placed to 911 for serious medical incidents downtown by 8 p.m. Saturday.

Camille Nelson, who wore a cooling towel around her neck, watched a game from the shade as she waited for her son’s second game of the day. The Ritzville woman has been coming to Hoopfest for 20 years. “My husband played first and now my son plays,” she said.

However, her husband doesn’t play with her son. “The old man knows his limits,” she said, laughing.

She was pleased to see places to get free water. She also saw a team of basketball players wearing Star Wars costumes, including one wearing a Chewbacca outfit. “That was insane,” she said. “He won’t have it on long.”

Whitney Bowerman sat in the cool air of the Bing Crosby Theater’s air-conditioned lobby as she munched on a snack and read a book after her first two games of the day. The Bing was open to those who paid $3 admission, offering cartoons on the big screen, access to massages and a $3 coupon to the concession area.

“Our court is right there,” Bowerman said, gesturing outside. “It’s convenient.”

She played in Hoopfest a lot when she was younger, but Bowerman said this year is her first time back as an adult. The science teacher from Rosalia, Washington, said it’s more difficult as an adult, particularly when it’s hot outside. She had cool towels for her neck in addition to seeking air conditioning between games and keeping herself hydrated.

“I drank a lot of water this week leading up to it,” she said.

Shawn Bond arrived downtown around 9:30 a.m. to watch her son play. She sprayed herself with a portable misting fan and stood in the shade of a tree to keep cool. “We have wet towels, lots of water,” she said.


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