By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It’s not just the simple bow and arrow used by the Native Americans during the early years of settling the wilderness.
Instead, archery has become a highly respected sport across the country and last weekend’s ASA tournament was no exception.
In fact, the gathering for the weekend tournament brought out the largest crowd in ASA history — setting a new world record for the professional tournament and putting small town London, Ky., at the top of the list for hosting the event.
For local promoters and tourism officials, the news was astronomical.
“The ASA officials said this was the biggest archery tournament they’ve ever hosted,” said Rodney Hendrickson, co-director of the London-Laurel County Tourism Commission. “We here in London, Kentucky, broke two world records.”
That monumental mark came through two archery tournaments last week, beginning with the Kentucky Scholastic tournament on May 30 and May 31 that brought out more than 200 competitors.
The parking areas of the Laurel County Fairgrounds were even more populated on May 31 when the ASA 3-D Pro-Am groups arrived in huge numbers.
“There were over 1,600 people for the ASA tournament,” Hendrickson added, “and nearly every hotel room from Berea to Jellico, Tennessee was booked.”
With a total purse of $80,000, the competitors came from all over the United States and even some foreign countries.
“I talked to a guy from Italy who was here for the tournament,” Hendrickson added. “London is one of their favorite places to come.”
The competitors themselves seconded that. Damien Pitman from Peoria, Ill., was on his “third or fourth” visit to London for the ASA contest. Ditto for Tony Platt of Milwaukee, Wis., who has made significant strides in the archery field.
David Agee of Tennessee was a newcomer not only to the London shoot, but to the ASA tournament. The weekend event was Agee’s first professional tournament challenge.
Hailing from Florida and Georgia to the northern United States, Hendrickson said a count of license tags on the participants’ vehicles represented 24 different states.
However, many of those from farther distances, such as Colorado, Utah and the New England states, fly to the area, then rented cars to drive to London.
The drawing point for the visitors was the hospitality of the people they encountered during their visit.
“Almost every comment about coming to London was about the hospitality,” Hendrickson said, “from the hotel staff to the restaurant workers to the people in the shops they visited. Mike Terrell, the head of the ASA, said the hotels didn’t increase their rates because they knew a lot of people would be coming to the area and they appreciated that.”
“I don’t know how to estimate how many millions of dollars was generated for the area through this tournament,” he continued. “I went in to Weaver’s on Saturday night and there were several tables of people from the archery tournament there. Someone else was at Applebee’s in Corbin and they said the place was full of people from the archery tournament.”
One restaurateur said his business had seen a 30 percent increase in revenues from the previous week of business during the four days of the archery tournament.
“Everyone seemed to have a good time and they really enjoy coming to London,” Hendrickson added. “It was a great event. And who would have thought that the small town of London, Ky., would break two world records?”