We moved to Augusta four years ago. Like any move to any new place, it takes a few years to know what to expect from year to year. Augusta is a pretty big place so I’m sure we’ll be learning new things about it for years to come, but there’s one thing that we learned pretty quickly: this town cleans up when it’s time for The Masters Tournament.
Maybe this has something to do with the fact that spring and Masters happen simultaneously. Spring cleaning certainly isn’t an act that is reserved just for Augustans. So, maybe people in Augusta are simply doing what everyone else does when the days get longer and warmer. But, I expect that it’s more than that.
Most reports say that Augusta is a city of 200,000 in a metropolitan area of 525,000. Most major sporting events move from one city to another each year (think Super Bowl, US Open, Final Four), including the other three big golfing events in America. The Masters Tournament is Augusta’s own. Beginning in 1934 with a winning purse of $1,000.00, the 2008 winner, Immelson, took home $1,350,000.00. Tickets to the event are considered a prize in themselves. I can’t find statistics, but I’m sure that our population increases by the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands during Masters.
Many places close during Masters. Our school system and local colleges choose to take Spring Break during this week. Some of us will stay in town to work. Many locals will pack up and leave town, returning home on the evening of Easter Sunday as our southern town settles back into “routine.”
As I drove down Washington Road today, I didn’t have to have a calendar to know we are within a few short days of the start of the tournament. Here are a few sights that are expected the last week in March:
The Augusta National throws open it’s generally closed gates, that the world may see inside. The rest of the year, there is a high rolling gate that is solid green to impede your view down the majestic drive.
Businesses spruce up. I guess the owner of this building thought a quick coat of paint might help find a suitor during Masters week. Sitting on property across the street from grounds, maybe a little dressing up is all that it needs. Time will tell.
“Golf traffic” signs are posted all over town. I’ve seen enough of them to know for sure, I could stay in a state of perpetual “lostness” if I was a visitor to this fine city. Of course, that happens to me WITHOUT helpful signs.
I don’t know where they come from, but there are a few tour buses that show up ever year – rolling offices that will offer you big money for your ticket … and promptly sell those tickets to someone else for bigger money.
This is one of the less than amiable facts about Augusta. Many of the businesses make the bulk of their money during Masters week. (Note the empty parking lot.) Here is a hotel that has rooms for $35.00 per night. This is their price year round … until the first week of April. If I remember correctly (and I may not – it may have been another motel within this few block area), this was the hotel that was featured in the paper last year as renting their rooms for $450.00 per night. The owner was quoted as saying something about charging what people are willing to pay. I think it’s unfortunate that price gouging of this depth happens in my fine city of mostly honest folk.
Golf carts are like Christmas decorations, parked in front of businesses to help stir up the festive golfing spirit. Tents are now in place to hold the overflow of patrons – tents that are, in fact, larger than the businesses that they are helping support. This white tent beside Hooters will require a wait to be seated, with a band that can be heard several doors down each night all week.
We have three family members who will be helping support the Masters tournament this year. James and I were hired for the second year in a row as part of the Hospitality team. We both worked in a connection to food services. Neither of us have ever done anything so physically taxing, working most days from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm. We’ll see how we hold up this year. Glory works at a local wings restaurant (not Hooters). I expect that she will pull very long shifts during this year’s spring break.
No, it won’t be long. It’s an exciting time. Only a few days before the locals will know to choose another route than Washington Road to run to the store for milk.
Are you ready for Spring Break?