Feel the Flavor
Classes at the Woodburn School District may have been out for more than a month, but the facilities at Woodburn High School saw more people over the weekend than just about any event over the course of the past school year.
Flavor de Futbol — the inaugural statewide youth soccer tournament organized jointly by the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce, the Woodburn School District and Woodburn Futbol Club — descended on the district grounds over the weekend, bringing a festival-like atmosphere to the high school and nearby French Prairie Middle School.
With dozens of teams, hundreds of athletes and thousands of parents, coaches, fans and family members in attendance, tournament organizers lauded the event's success as the start of something that has the potential to grow into a signature event in the city of Woodburn.
"I think that this was the surge our soccer community needed," Woodburn Futbol Club Co-President Brianna Spencer said. "Not even just the soccer community, any community just needs something where everybody can come together and unite."
Conceptualized in December and organized over a period of several months, Flavor de Futbol created Woodburn's first large-scale youth tournament in known history, according to Spencer. Boys and girls teams from throughout the Willamette Valley and beyond played in a number of tournament brackets for U10 through U19 divisions.
Seven fields were sectioned off at the Woodburn High School campus, anchored by the school's new synthetic turf field, while two more were in use at the nearby middle school. In total, Spencer said the tournament could accommodate more than twice as many teams, giving organizers hope for the future that the event can continue to grow as word spreads.
"We have 16 to 17 fields altogether, which can support a 150-team tournament pretty easily," Spencer said.
The event came about as a long-simmering idea to capitalize on the soccer culture inherent in Woodburn. The city is home to some of the best youth soccer players in the state, many of which have fed into the high school boys soccer team's longtime success that includes six state championships in a nine-year span.
But many of those youth players must travel to Portland or Washington, or as far south as Medford to compete during the club seasons. Organizers wanted an event that would showcase Woodburn as soccer destination while giving local family members an opportunity to see their kids play without having to plan out long, expensive road trips.
"So many times, people have to give rides to get to all these games in Portland, Eugene and Salem or wherever," Spencer said. "The fact that they can just come here and their friends can watch is such a huge success."
The tournament kicked off Friday afternoon and lasted through the evening, picking up again Saturday and Sunday mornings for full days. As guests flowed in to the high school grounds, so too did vendors offering a variety of carnival treats like curly fries, shaved ice and elephant ears.
Woodburn Futbol Club was fundraising from the school's permanent concession stall, while local representatives from El Mercadito and MegaFood set up tents nearby to create a makeshift food court for guests. Organizers wanted to keep the vendors relatively limited for the inaugural event, to help make the tournament profitable to the businesses that were in attendance.
"We wanted our vendors to get as much love as possible," Chamber President Melinda Avila said. "For the years to come, as it grows, I think there's opportunities to get different vendors."
Having been to many youth tournaments for her daughters, Avila was very familiar with the standard — and often forgettable — cuisine that is offered, and wanted to make sure that guests didn't have to travel off site to get a quality meal.
"I don't care what anyone says, there's no way in heck there's another soccer tournament that has the food we have today," Avila said. "We knew if we brought good food, people would want to hang out and they'd be indulging in more stuff to buy throughout the day."
In addition to the food, a DJ was pumping music throughout the venue on Saturday and Sunday, intermittently stopping to give away prizes such as soccer balls and Timbers tickets.
Commemorative t-shirts were also available, as was a tournament photographer making the rounds and capturing the event.
With the 2019 Flavor de Futbol tournament officially in the rearview, organizers can take a deep breath, regroup and begin planning for next year's event. While this year's event was lauded as a success, with twice as much time to plan for the 2020 tournament, organizers are already looking forward to ways in which they can make Flavor de Futbol even better.
"I feel like for this being our first year, yes we'll refine some things, but it's a pretty darn good first year," Avila said. "The one thing that's always been said about Woodburn, when people talk about competition, they always say Woodburn doesn't really have fields. Well we just proved we do. They're right here, and we can prepare ourselves to have quality, great fields.
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