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Konnor Sager, 8, of Millbury, left, J.J. Short, 8 Konnor Sager, 8, of Millbury, left, J.J. Short, 8, center left, Jax Sager, 6, center right, and Holly Short, 6, watch as Jeffrey Schwietzer tosses dough in the window of J&G Pizza Place in downtown Sylvania.
Konnor Sager, 8, of Millbury, left, J.J. Short, 8, center left, Jax Sager, 6, center right, and Holly Short, 6, watch as Jeffrey Schwietzer tosses dough in the window of J&G Pizza Place in downtown Sylvania.
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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Visitors, their wallets flock to Sylvania for big weekend

Farr tourney, triathlon, circus fatten economy

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sunday in Sylvania will never be the same.

The return of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic to Highland Meadows coupled with the running of the Triathlon/Duathlon promises to keep the town on high-traffic alert. Throw in the clowns from the recent Kelly Miller Circus performances and it's a party that resonates from area businesses to the town's coffers.

The 27th Farr Classic arrived after a one-year lull with the usual buzz and a stronger-than-usual field. Tournament director Judd Silverman has forecast a crowd upward of 15,000 for today's final round.

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"To have the greatest women athletes in the world come to town is a great thing for the community," said Mr. Silverman, who estimated the tournament's economic impact on Greater Toledo to be between $5 million and $10 million.

The Farr is in the first year of a contract that will keep the tournament in Sylvania through at least 2014.

Said Greg Conrad, vice president of tournament business affairs for the LPGA, "One of the things that's neat is when you come to a community and the community makes you feel more special than you are, and I think that happens every time we come here. You go away, people miss you, and they're glad you're back."

Bill Sanford, economic development director for the city of Sylvania, said there is usually more activity for businesses in town, primarily restaurants.

"The hotel is usually full for this week. The tournament is a positive event for the city and is a boost for the local economy," he said.

Pat Nowak, executive director of the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce, was in agreement and said she expected restaurants and retail stores to show the biggest increases.

"We cannot accurately estimate," she said, "but with all of the shopping, restaurants -- we say about $750,000 is spent here" during the tournament week.

Kyle Stelmaszak and Tim Noe staff the concession stand that accompanies their front-yard parking service. They set up their temporary business for the Jamie Farr Golf Classic at Highland Meadows in Sylvania. Kyle Stelmaszak and Tim Noe staff the concession stand that accompanies their front-yard parking service. They set up their temporary business for the Jamie Farr Golf Classic at Highland Meadows in Sylvania.
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Ms. Nowak said that beyond spending, the increase in activity brings much to the community.

"This is a good thing for the community. These guests will spend money in our restaurants and shops, and perhaps with a favorable impression will come back to visit again. All of this translates into much needed dollars necessary to maintain or revitalize a vibrant community."

For the past week, the chamber has focused on encouraging tourism, especially through using a "Visit Sylvania" guide with information and details about events, food, and shopping.

Lea MacLaren, general manager of Wingate by Wyndham on South Main Street, was enthusiastic about the number of people who were booked to stay in Sylvania's only hotel during the week.

"Yes, we have seen some increase in room nights due to the tournament," she said.

In addition, the influx in the number of people visiting and walking around the city created a need for more police patrol.

"We will be using officers working both overtime and regular on-duty time," Capt. Rick Schnoor of the Sylvania Police Department said.

Limits on vacation time were put in place for the department, so it could have the maximum number of officers on duty.

Captain Schnoor said more than 95 percent of the department's staff was available to work at the events, if deemed necessary.

Erie Street industry

Cottage industries are sprouting along Erie Street.

Tim Noe, in a fluorescent-yellow shirt with the words 'Pork Chop' on it, stood and looked around his front yard, surveying the situation. Most of the available space in his yard was taken up by cars, trucks, and vans.

With the Farr going on right across the street at Highland Meadows Golf Club, he figured it would be a good week to set up shop and charge $5 per car for parking.

"We just want to make some money," he said. "It's been a long week so far. I'm spending my vacation days to do this. It's been fun meeting all the different caddies."

Mr. Noe decided to open his yard to daily parking, as well as selling weekly passes. He set up a sign and a small green vending stand where he sold drinks and candy bars.

Kyle Stelmaszak said setting up the vending stand was also allowing a travel hockey team, 2002 Cherokee, to raise money for events.

"We thought this would be a good opportunity for them to fund-raise," she said, adding that she was surprised that the team members were asking every person who walked by if he or she wanted to buy something.

The trend of parking in yards was prominent on Erie Street throughout the tournament week.

A few houses down, neighbor Amy Sperry also rented her yard out. She said it created an opportunity to get the entire family involved in entrepreneurship.

"We've done it in years past. We do it together as a family," she said.

But Ms. Sperry had a twist different from some of her other neighbors -- she was offering valet parking.

The Sperry family parks vehicles and holds onto the keys for the owners. She said this is the best option, to make sure the yard doesn't get torn up by tire treads.

Ms. Sperry said the venture's success is "all based on the weather."

But the idea of holding on to the car keys, even across from the golf club, had some of her customers feeling a little leery.

She related that one man was concerned that his Cadillac would be damaged.

Ms. Sperry said she spent some time assuring her customers that nothing would happen to their vehicles.

"We make sure everyone can get out. There's no bumper to bumper," she said. "In years past, she said, the family has made "a couple thousand dollars" in profits.

Triathlon/Duathlon

As the tournament draws to a close today, traffic will show no sign of slowing down.

The Sylvania Triathlon/Duathlon will shut down Sylvania Avenue between Vicksburg Street and King Road from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To help alleviate potential traffic jams, the Sylvania Police Department will dispatch extra patrols along the running and biking portions of the course.

Before the race, Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough was excited about the possibilities the event would bring.

"The triathlon is another exciting event in Sylvania, always bringing many competitors and visitors. We look forward to all the events and the added economic boost they bring to Sylvania businesses," he said.

Mayor Stough acknowledged that the weekend had been busy because of three big events only a few miles apart -- the golf tournament, the race, and two evening circus performances that drew large crowds.

The Kelly Miller Circus, set up at Pacesetter Park, brought out onlookers and shutterbugs when an elephant helped set up the circus tent prior to the performances.

"The tent is specifically designed to see the circus at its best," general manager Jim Royal said.

But by the end of the week, those who were involved with parking cars and meeting people from across the state and country said they were exhausted.

"I can't wait to sleep in and go to work on Monday," Mr. Noe said, citing the long week, as well as using his last vacation days, as reasons he was eager to get back into his regular routine.

Ms. Sperry agreed that her favorite part of the tournament week was seeing all of the new faces in town and providing some good, old-fashioned Sylvania hospitality.

"It's fun to watch the people go by. I don't know a whole lot about golf. People watching is the best entertainment," she said.

Blade sports writer David Briggs contributed to this report

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-206-0356 and @MyTownSylvania.



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