From July 22-26, much of the North Carolina softball world will converge in Smithfield as the town will play host to the Tar Heel Leagues state softball tournament.
More than 40 teams in five different age divisions will compete against one another in a double elimination style tournament for a chance to lay claim to a state title.
Those teams will come from all seven districts that compose the Tar Heel organization, spanning from the mountains to the beaches.
Although the site for the state tournament changes from year to year, Smithfield and the surrounding area provides a unique and convenient location and is a usual host of the popular tournament.
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“Tar Heel Leagues really love coming to Smithfield because of the shopping and it’s easy to get to, being that it’s in the middle of the state,” said Tar Heel Leagues President Gary Johnson. “They’re a really good draw. We play here at Smithfield Community Park and we’re going to play at Clayton Community Park as a kind of a shared county-wide type deal.”
In addition to those two sites, the Under-17 division will play its games at Smithfield Middle School.
The economic impact of the event is a sizable one with over 200 hotel and motel reservations having been booked for each night of the tournament and the overall impact on the economy being estimated between $250,000-$500,000.
Opening ceremonies will take place on Thursday, July 23, at 1 p.m. at Smithfield-Selma High School.
In addition to all teams in the tournament being in attendance at the opening ceremonies, two or three of the seven $1,000 scholarships distributed by the organization this year, funded by an annual golf tournament, will be awarded to former participants of the Tar Heel Leagues.
Johnson, who is also the Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director, is excited about the prospect of Smithfield and Johnston County in general having a chance to shine for visitors from all the corners of the state to see.
“It’s a big event and we love having these folks in Smithfield,” Johnson said. “It is good for the economy and good for the town. It brings in a lot of people in from all over the state to see what we have to offer here in Smithfield and Johnston County.”