BRATTLEBORO -- The town felt like a long-lost cousin was returning when the Harris Hill Ski Jump Competition was resurrected a few years ago.
At least that's what Jerry Goldberg, executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday.
The event, which pits some of the best ski jumpers in the world against one another in a test to see who can leap the farthest from a take-off ramp, has a storied history in Brattleboro and is an important part of the town's identity and character. This year's competition will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16 and 17.
"I think it's certainly a signature event. You can't buy that type of thing overnight," Goldberg said.
Because the ski jump needed major renovations, there was a three-year hiatus between 2005 and 2009 and he said there was something missing from Brattleboro's winters during those years. He said that was proven by the local and international response to the announcement that following an amazingly successful fundraising effort, the competition was making a comeback.
Goldberg said the competition is a vital revenue source for area businesses, as many families come to town for the entire weekend and spend money downtown. He said a lot of people from all over the world go out to eat in town and purchase souvenirs -- perhaps some Vermont maple syrup -- for loved ones back home.
He said Main Street is just a 30-second drive from the hill's site, making that much more enticing for visitors to see what Brattleboro's downtown area has to offer.
Harris Hill Ski Jump, Inc. announced in late January the lineup for the opening ceremonies for each day of competition. Brattleboro Union High School student Kristina Meima is slated to sing the national anthem on Saturday while acclaimed jazz and blues singer Samirah Evans will perform for her third consecutive year. Each opening ceremony will be held at noon at the base of the jump.
Born in Sweden to an American father and British mother, Meima has been a resident of Brattleboro since the age of 7. This will mark the second time she has sung "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Harris Hill.
"We're so excited for her," said her father, Ralph. "She did it last year and she's looking to do it even better and learn from last year."
Meima, 16, began participating in musical theater at the New England Youth Theatre a year after arriving in Brattleboro. She also plays the trumpet with the Brattleboro Union High School band, and sings in a madrigals and an a cappella group.
Evans, a native of New Orleans, was a popular vocalist in the city until Hurricane Katrina devastated her home. She and her husband, a Brattleboro native, moved to town a year later and recently had a second brush with tragedy when their Fuller Drive home was damaged in a fire on Saturday, Feb. 2.
She has toured Europe, Asia, and the Americas as a headliner, and has shared stages with legendary artists such as B.B. King, James Brown and New Orleans' own Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas.
The world's top male and female ski jumpers from the United States, Europe and Canada are scheduled to compete this year on the 90-meter jump designed to International Ski Federation specifications.
Spectators watch the jumpers launch from the take-off and soar more than 300 feet at speeds of nearly 60 mph. The event is meant to attract the whole family, as food, music, souvenirs and a beer tent will be available.
This year's event will not only feature the annual Pepsi Challenge and the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament, but also will be the only U.S. stop on the International Ski Federation's FIS Cup and a stop on the United States American Ski Jumping US Cup Tour.
More information and details can be found at harrishillskijump.com, on Facebook or on Twitter @Harrishillskivt.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.