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Lacrosse tournament canceled after threats from community

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 5:01 PM EDT
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A lacrosse tournament in Stowe that usually brings thousands of people to Vermont is now canceled. Organizers called it off Tuesday night after they say they were threatened by the community. Our Ike Bendavid went to Stowe to learn more.

It's a town known for its skiing but some business owners in Stowe say that summer is really when they cash in.

"Summer and fall are considerably busier," said Scot Baraw, the owner of the Stoweflake Resort.

Baraw says this weekend they normally would be booked up with their hot air balloon festival. And the same for next weekend for the Stowe Lax classic, a lacrosse tournament that in previous years has attracted 3,000-5,000 people.

"The lacrosse weekend has become a huge weekend in Stowe," Baraw said.

The lacrosse tournament was a go, with organizers promising to follow safety protocols including limiting groups to less than 100. But they canceled due to public backlash.

Now, phones at the resort are ringing to cancel reservations and the hotel is already under 50% capacity to stay within state guidelines.

"I know my other friends that run restaurants and hotels in town are very disappointed it's not going to be here. It's a big, big revenue loss," Baraw said.

The tournament organizers did not respond to our requests for comment, but in an email to the town, they said: "Due to the vitriol, hate and threats of violence from members of the community we do not feel the Stowe area would be a safe place for visiting families. We will not be running the event this year. Furthermore, we do not feel it would be a good fit in future years and will look at other options for host venues."

But the town of Stowe wasn't expecting to host it this year anyway. Town manager Charles Safford tells us the town didn't issue the Stowe Lax Classic-- or any other event-- a permit for this summer because of COVID-19.

"He wasn't actually looking to hold that in Stowe," Safford said. "I think folks were concerned about public health and large gatherings and contact sports and it might create a hot spot here in the region."

People I talked with agreed.

"This is really not a time for it. I can understand that some businesses want to draw in more revenue but this is not the time for it," said Bitul Tandon of Stowe.

"It's unfortunate but sometimes you have to take drastic action to protect the public as a whole," said Nick Bery of Stowe.

But for business owners like Baraw, it's just something to get used to.

"It's a sign of the times right now," he said.

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