ATLANTA — This weekend, tens of thousands of people will head downtown for the first major tourist gathering since the pandemic began.
The Cheersport Nationals happen every year at the Georgia World Congress Center. This year, participants and spectators will have to share the space with a COVID-19 patient facility already operating there for months.
Channel 2′s Lori Wilson was at the venue, where officials said they expect 40,000 people at attend the competition over Saturday and Sunday. Last year, the event brought in more than $34 million.
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Officials said Cheersport submitted a plan weeks ago to make sure their people stay safe.
Wilson talked to cheerleader Madilyn Holland and her mom, Linda Holland, who are from Sarasota.
Linda Holland said the competition made it very clear that the competition would not be anywhere near the wing holding COVID-19 patients, and that no cheerleader would come within a quarter mile of anyone who is sick.
Cheerleaders and families have been asked to social distance, wash their hands and follow a one-way traffic plan. They will also be asked to wear masks. Award ceremonies will be virtual.
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“This is our third competition, and they’ve done a great job of keeping them safe,” Linda Holland said. “It does make me feel better as a parent.”
“We hit our first routine on Wednesday, so hopefully we can win,” Madilyn Holland said.
Ten-year-old Layla Gouge and her 11-year-old sister Izzy were excited to take part in their first cheer competition this weekend.
“My whole team says it’s really fun,” Izzy Lunsford said.
The annual event brings in millions of dollars into the Atlanta economy every year. There are usually 1,200 - 1,500 teams at the event but this year, only about 700 teams will compete. Those who are participating are spending money.
“We just spent like $600 two doors down, so yeah, just a bit,” parent Shane Lunsford said.
“The hotel was super clean when we checked in,” cheer dad Thomas Paradiso said. “So everything has been great!”
Paradiso said it was especially important for his daughter to participate in the competition this year.
“When everything shut down last year, she got a little touch of the blues,” Paradiso said. “So competing and participating with teammates and that leadership that they build is important to us, and that’s why we came out to Atlanta.”
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