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King Cotton Holiday Classic brings boost to Pine Bluff economy

Hundreds of people and several basketball teams from around the country are gathering in Pine Bluff as the King Cotton Holiday Classic makes it return.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — From holiday traditions to an Arkansas sports tradition, King Cotton is an event that city leaders are happy is back.

For Joy Matthews, a Pine Bluff native, King Cotton is more than a competitive basketball tournament. 

"The community comes together. It's like a family reunion," Matthews said. "King Cotton has always been a tradition for me growing up."

Matthews says she is happy her son is able to experience the games and make memories much like she did when she was his age.

"I did it with my mom and my friends. And you know, he can maybe do that with his kids one day, you know, just continue the tradition," Matthews said.

It's stories like Matthews' that fueled the director of King Cotton Samuel Glover and a team of people to bring back the games.

Last year, the event was canceled because of the pandemic. 

"We take all of those safety protocols, but then we have to go ahead and give something for the people to be a part of, because we've been cooped up for a year," Glover said.

He adds that they've hired more than 200 people from around Pine Bluff to help with this week's event.

With the thousands of ticket sales organizers are expecting, Glover believes both will bring a much needed boost for the town's economy.

"Those things put revenue into the city, helps us to rebuild those things that we need rebuilt and to put funding into such as infrastructure and economic community development," Glover said.

For a city that has faced a lot of hardships in the last year, Glover believes this holiday ballgame could bring the community together.

"A big, positive, emotional boost also for our city, because it shows that we have good things happening here as well," Glover said.

That is why Matthews keeps coming back.

"We, as a community, we still need to continue to support this event. It has grown since I was in high school," Matthews said.

The games will be going on until Wednesday, December 29. You can visit the website for more on ticket information.

Organizers are also keeping safety top of mind by requiring face masks and temperature checks at the door.