HARTFORD - The "First to the Finish New England Winterfest" volleyball tournament is serving much more than some good games. The annual event brings thousands of visitors to the Hartford area for two weekends in a row.
"We love coming here and people love coming here. It’s kind of the opening tournament for a lot of these girls where they get to bond, they get to eat at a lot of restaurants and really see what Hartford is about and they fall in love with it," said David Peixoto, the commissioner of New England Region Volleyball.
Hundreds of teams from all over the Northeast, plus their friends and family, explore our capital city and bring in big business.
"All of a sudden restaurants are full, all of a sudden every place is going crazy with food sales and things to do and people are walking around to do some things," said Peixoto.
At Bear's Smokehouse Barbecue, they know when the tournament is happening they'll need to call in more staff.
"It’s a very well known weekend how busy it’s going to be," said Heather Melesko, manager at Bear's. "We just try to get them through the line and just make them all happy," she said.
The nice weather is also helping to get people outside and exploring the area.
"We’re definitely going to walk around and take a look and see the town," said Eric Mann of Massapequa, New York.
Organizers say the tournament in Hartford brings in a large crowd. So large, that next year it's expanding to three weekends.
"When you sell out an event like this it means people really enjoy coming to an area," said Peixoto.
As far as the athletes, more than anything they come to Connecticut to win.
"Last year we did really good but we didn’t win so this year we’re making a big comeback," said Ava Kelly of Hicksville, New York.