Crews prepare for the start of the 2012 Harris Hill Ski Jump competition in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Crews prepare for the start of the 2012 Harris Hill Ski Jump competition in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)

BRATTLEBORO -- Organizers of the Harris Hill Ski Jumping competition have always looked to members of the local community when in need of funds or volunteers.

In fact, most of the 158 steps athletes take to reach the starting platform that stands high above Cedar Street have been purchased by individuals or businesses wanting to forever cement their devotion to the annual two-day event. A step can be purchased for a tax-deductible $1,000 in memory or honor of someone special and anyone can become a Friend of Harris Hill for a yearly donation of at least $100.

It's consistent sponsorship and commitment that drives the competition and this year 40 sponsors have signed up to offer their time and money. Two of those sponsors are Entergy Vermont Yankee and Brattleboro Pepsi, each long-standing supporters of the event. Liz Richards, vice president of the event's board of trustees, said the two local giants are a big factor in the competition's success.

"We could not hold this event without sponsorships and private donations and gate (admissions)," she told the Reformer.

Jim Sinclair, the manager of communications at Yankee, said the corporation started sponsoring the Harris Hill Ski Jumping competition in the mid-1980s. He said it continues the support because it is important to both Yankee and the community.

"We saw (sponsorship) as a great opportunity to help build it up. We take a lot of pride in sponsoring it," he said, adding that Vermont Yankee sponsors several local causes. "It's good for the community, as far as the event goes, and the notoriety it brings to the town of Brattleboro."

Though Entergy announced it will shut down Yankee by the end of 2014, Sinclair said the nuclear plant is committed to continuing its monetary support of the event during the plant's decommissioning.

"We have a long history with it. We have had a great partnership over the years and we made the commitment a long time ago," he said, adding that several employees also volunteer their time to help with snowmaking and getting the jump ready.

John Leader, the chairman and CEO of Brattleboro Pepsi, said his company has been a Harris Hill sponsor since he moved to town in 1971, after his family bought the franchise. He said organizers wanted to revitalize the jump as part of the Brattleboro Winter Carnival.

"At that time we were looking for a way to support the community and we wanted to do something with the youth in the community and something sports-related," he told the Reformer. "It came together and we've been doing it ever since.

Blue jacket-clad judges watch for touchdown as Brattleboro resident Spencer Knickerbocker soars down the run during the 2011 Har­ris Hill Ski Jumping
Blue jacket-clad judges watch for touchdown as Brattleboro resident Spencer Knickerbocker soars down the run during the 2011 Har­ris Hill Ski Jumping Competition in Brattleboro. (Reformer file photo)
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Leader said his company's sponsorship fits in very well because Pepsi has always been a youth-oriented product.

"Helping the community was just a bonus," he said.

Brattleboro Pepsi also provides all the sponsorship for the Pepsi Challenge, which Leader said is a ski-jumping competition for young people. The Pepsi Challenge is slated for Saturday, Feb. 15, while the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament is scheduled for the following day.

Other sponsors include the Richards Group, Mount Snow, Foard Panel, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, HP Cummings Construction Company, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Grafton Village Cheese, C&S Wholesale Grocers, U.S. Air Force, Mascoma Savings Bank, First Choice Communication Services, Green Mountain Power, Quality Inn, Super 8 Motel, Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Staples, Anson Baldwin Tree Care, Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, Brattleboro Subaru , Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, Brattleboro Retreat, Cota & Cota, Eastern Ski & Nordic Combined, GPI Construction, Inc., Green Mountain Gringo, GS Precision, Holstein Association USA, Inc., New Chapter, People's United Bank, SERVPRO, Swiss Precision Turnings, Trust Company of Vermont, Wells Fargo Advisors, Green Mountain Creamery Yo Yummy, Allard Lumber, Cersosimo Industries, Barrows Fisher Oil, Brattleboro Ford, Integrated Solar, River Valley Credit Union, ROV Technologies, Sandri Oil Company, Sterling Quality Cleaners, The Whetstone Church and Caveman Bars.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.