Pendleton has the contract to host the state Class 2A basketball tournament through 2015, according to retiring tournament committee chair John McBee. It's the second largest event to come our way each year and McBee hopes it might soon be extended even longer.

Long a fixture at the tournament, the retired surgeon is turning over leadership of the tournament to Terri Spriet. McBee is around this year to answer questions and help Spriet get her feet on the ground, although it's likely he will continue to be involved in one way or another.

Teams like coming here, McBee noted, even those who travel from as far away as Lakeview and Medford. They ought to, because Eastern Oregon offers them a huge welcome.

When tournaments are in larger communities, their presence is nothing special. Most people don't even know they are in town. In a community the size of Pendleton, or Baker City where the 1A hoopfest was, it's pretty hard not to know they are around.

The visitors are everywhere - on the streets, shopping in local businesses, eating in restaurants, staying in motels and checking out tourist attractions.

Last Thursday I ran into Tom Welter, Oregon School Activities Association executive director, who had just come up from Baker City to see how things were unfolding at the Pendleton site. He was all smiles as he waxed eloquent about the attendance record that was set Wednesday when Pilot Rock opened the tournament against De La Salle, and about tournament organization in general.

I attended a high school that in Oregon would be classified as 2A because it was about the same size as places like Heppner, Pilot Rock, Athena or Enterprise. And sometimes when I'm attending the tournament, I think I could close my eyes and be carried back to tournaments I attended half a century ago.

While most things in our lives change, the 2A tourney and all that comes with it doesn't seem to have changed all that much over the years. It still exhibits a whole lot of the values, pageantry and excitement it always has.

And before we leave the subject of the 2009 version, hats off to the volunteers who are the real reason why Pendleton has become such a well-respected and popular destination for Oregon's 2A basketball teams.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the East Oregonian editorial board, comprised of Editor George Murdock, Associate Publisher Kathryn Brown, General Manager Wendy DalPez and Managing Editor Skip Nichols. Other columns, letters and cartoons on this page express the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of the East Oregonian.

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