SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In a little over a month, hundreds of volleyball players will be flocking to Saratoga Springs to play in the Great Saratoga Block Party. The outdoor 4 vs. 4 format tournament serves as a fundraiser for Saratoga Springs Friends of Recreation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports the Saratoga community parks and provides financial aid and sports equipment to children in need.
The Great Saratoga Block Party joins a plethora of fundraising volleyball tournaments held in the Capital Region. “There is a huge volleyball community in the Capital Region, and last year Andy Mink and I wondered why there were no Grass Volleyball tournaments in Saratoga,” said organizer Dan Graham. “Being on the board for Friends of Recreation, I found this to be a great way to host a tournament in Saratoga and raise money for a good cause. Between Andy’s experience running volleyball tournaments with his non-profit Elevate OC, and my background in event marketing and fundraising, we were able to launch the first Block Party in under 2 months.”
One year later, the tournament expanded to twice the size. “Last year, we hosted 30 teams and raised just over $6000,” said Graham. “This year we will host 60 teams, on 12 nets covering the entire football fields at East Side Rec. Like last year, all participants will receive backpacks filled with swag from our sponsors, something that is rarely done in our community. We are also looking to set a new standard for cash prizes, as winning teams typically only make their entry fee back. This is all made possible by our incredible sponsors.”
Despite the increase in capacity, registration filled very quickly. Word of the tournament spread across the state and even outside of New York, as volleyballers from states like Vermont and Maine are expected to participate.
Sarah Shires traveled from Vermont to play last year and will be returning for this tournament. “I really enjoyed the tournament last year and am super looking forward to going again. The level of play was very competitive in the upper brackets, but they also had lower brackets for more casual players. I loved the music playing the whole time. Last year, it was perfect weather, so I’m definitely hoping for that again. It’s always nice to play with some new people – I think it provides a good opportunity to improve.”
Shires added more Vermont players are heading down this time around. “I know there’s a big group of us coming down from Vermont because of how much we all enjoyed it last year! I’m especially looking forward to having that bigger group and hopefully socializing more this year.”
“We’re thrilled that word has spread about this event,” said Graham. “We took the typical grass volleyball tournament and discussed how can we really elevate this? The outcome of that was swag bags for all competitors, a live DJ, cash prizes, local vendors, and a fun but competitive atmosphere. The event is also held on a well-maintained football field, making for safe and level courts. This year we’re welcoming 3 levels of play, from novice/beginners, intermediate weekend warriors, and advanced athletes.”
Although the tournament is a month away, Graham says they still have more work to do. “Our fundraising goal for this year is $15,000 which should be easily broken as we are currently at $12,000 raised. We actively looking for sponsors that want to get involved either monetarily or take a more active role at the event.”
Graham adds that organizers are already thinking about future plans. “We’re looking forward to continuing to grow this event each year. This year our intermediate and advanced levels sold out in under 2 weeks so we’ll most likely expand next year. Our goal is to turn the “Block Party” into not just a volleyball tournament but a community event that supports local businesses as well as youth and adult sports.”