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The Dirt Bowl Starts This Weekend. Here Are The Details

Dirt Bowl
Kertis Creative

The Dirt Bowl is back.

The West Louisville basketball tournament -- which features some of the best hoops competition outside the Yum Center -- kicks off Saturday, June 18 at 11 a.m. Games go all day Saturdays and Sundays from this weekend through early August at Shawnee Park (except for West Louisville Appreciation Day in July).

There are 24 teams this year, and many are Dirt Bowl veterans, according to tournament ambassador Ravon Churchill. Organizers have also added two new divisions: elementary and high school. They'll play on Thursdays and Saturday mornings.

The Dirt Bowl has had a notable year so far.

The Louisville Story Program created a book cataloging the tournament's impressive history -- which dates back to 1969 -- called "I Said Bang." Released to high acclaim locally earlier this year, the book weaves together individual stories of Dirt Bowl participants -- players, organizers, vendors, referees and others -- to chart its course from the turbulence of the Civil Rights Era to today.

Here at WFPL News, we worked with the Louisville Story Program and some of those who appear in the book to make an hour-long documentary about the tournament. It's told entirely through the voices of those involved. You can revisit that here.

Churchill said the publicity has generated new interest in the Dirt Bowl, and he expects crowds of a couple thousand on Sundays. He said attendance has steadily grown every year for the past four tournaments.

"We're re-energized about it," he said. "I think this year, the attendance is going to be bigger than normal. I think we're going to have more vendors and more sponsors. So this year's going to be a really big year for us."

With violent crime up in Louisville this year -- and much of it occurring in the western neighborhoods -- Churchill said he hopes people considering a visit to the Dirt Bowl won't be deterred.

"Don't be scared of the Dirt Bowl, and don't think it's an inclusive party that doesn't include you," he said. "Whether you're young, old, white, black -- it doesn't matter. The Dirt Bowl is and can be for everyone."

Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. Email Stephen at sgeorge@lpm.org.