CULLMAN — The McKenzie ASA Classic is closing off its season in Cullman, where more than 2,000 archers are expected to infiltrate the city and use the woods around St. Bernard Aug. 2-5.
According to Laura Shedd, who works for Cullman Parks and Recreation, the city began the campaign to host this tournament almost two years ago.
“We traveled to several of the other tournaments to see what it was about and made a bid and invited them to Cullman,” she said. “When they saw St. Bernard, they were extremely pleased to come.”
The Cullman Archery Park never would’ve been big enough to host such a magnificent event, so they turned to the terrain of St. Bernard, which fit the bill for what the tournament is looking for.
“We had to have a location that was big enough to accommodate that amount of people and a location that had various terrains,” she said. “We needed flat surfaces, open surfaces, and we also needed wooded areas. St. Bernard is close to the city, so it’s close to lodging, close to restaurants. It was what they needed.”
Another thing Shedd believes helped get the bid was the city of Cullman itself.
“From last summer, when we traveled and spoke with these people, that got them interested in checking out, ‘Where is Cullman, Ala., and what’s there?’ she said. “I think that the charm of our little town has played a big importance in it.”
ASA, or Archery Shooters Association, started this year’s tournament in February, kicking it off in Newberry, Fla., making four more stops along the way before completing its trip in Cullman.
Shedd said she could think of about 30-40 archers competing from the state, but the rest of them would be from all over the country.
“They come from all over the U.S.,” she said. “There’s not really one region that dominated. The tournaments we’ve been to, we’ve met people from the west coast, the east coast, the north and the south. They really do travel from all over.”
The tournament itself is a 3-D tournament, meaning there will be replicas of all different kinds of wildlife placed into the wooded area, and the archers will walk through the trails with 200 different lanes shooting at targets.
They also have a safety class, where the archers will be informed about the trails and the proper places to walk so as to avoid being in anyone’s shooting range. There are also a few other pointers in those meetings.
“Being courteous to other archers, no cell phones on the archery range, keep talking to a minimum,” Shedd said. “They’ll probably discuss keeping yourself hydrated. Archery is a safe sport when it is structured. It is a very disciplined sport.”
Surprisingly, the archers coming to Cullman might actually be getting a break from the heat. Shedd said when she went to the stop in Metropolis, Ill., in June the temperatures surpassed 110 degrees.
“You’re going to be hot anywhere you go in the summer, but I think right now Cullman is having a bit of a break from what I’ve seen from the rest of the country,” she said.
Additionally, with the tournament taking place in the woods, the cover keeps things cooler.
“The wooded area there at St. Bernard is a very mature wooded area, and it has a fantastic canopy of trees,” Shedd said. “So when you walk back in that area, it’s about 10 degrees cooler. We were back there the other day, and we were very pleased at the temperature it was back there. It was extremely comfortable.”
Most of the shooters that participate are professionals, meaning they’re traveling to compete and win money.
While the age range of archers is anywhere from 8 years old to 80, the children who might win a prize get something akin to scholarship money.
“The awards are money going towards a college scholarship,” Shedd said. “It’s not a check, but more like a fund. For the adults, it is cash because it becomes their job.”
ASA has many separate state tournaments, and in order to qualify for the Classic, an archer must compete in at least one other tournament. This upcoming weekend, there’s a qualifiers in Oneonta, and Shedd said it’s been a very popular tournament.
“People here in our state that have heard that the Classic will be in Alabama are flocking to the tournament this weekend to make sure they’re allowed in next weekend,” she said.
This is only the first of three years that the tournament is guaranteed to make a stop in Cullman.
“It could turn into a contract that’s even longer than three years,” Shedd said. “We’re striving to make it a permanent fixture here, and I think that’ll be extremely good for sports enthusiasts of all kinds. I think it’s good for the community as well. If anyone has had any thoughts of trying to get into archery, this would be a good time to come in as a spectator.”
For those interested, it’s a sport that Shedd said is very easy to get into.
“Within a year they themselves could be out there shooting,” she said. “It’s a sport you can learn rather quickly.”
For more information on the economic benefits of this tournament, see Sunday’s edition of The Times.
% Laura Owens can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.