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Large crowds expected for the NAFA Nationals

Every year the North American Fastpitch Association holds a national tournament, bringing young teams from 12 states together to share their love of softball.

This year, Cottage Grove has been chosen as host for the girls NAFA 10U Northern Nationals from July 26-29.

The tournament's opening ceremony will take place Thursday, July 26, at Park High School's football stadium.

For extra fun, the ceremony will include a parade around the track where each team will be introduced while wearing themed costumes.

The games themselves take place Thursday through Sunday.

President of the Cottage Grove Softball Board of Directors, Amanda Albert, said she encourages the community to come out and support the two teams from Cottage Grove who will be participating in the tournament, as well as the rest of the teams from around the country.

The games will take place at Lamar Fields and Grey Cloud Elementary, with nine fields total between the two.

To prepare for weather, the Cottage Grove Parks and Recreation department will construct a permanent shade structure and covered dugouts at Grey Cloud Fields.

As the facilities are equipped, Albert said she wants the city to be ready for the large number of people expected to come that weekend.

"Cottage Grove has hosted large tournaments before," Albert said, but this one will be the largest yet.

The maximum goal is to have 81 teams participating, and about 30 teams were already registered as of Thursday, June 28.

Despite the event drawing in large crowds, Albert said she's not worried.

She said local businesses have been gracious to sporting teams in the past and she is confident that with a little extra preparation, the tournament can be a positive experience for the entire city.

Jennifer Wenshau, Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce executive director, said that upon hearing of the upcoming event, she was immediately excited for the attention the town's storefronts were about to receive.

Wenshau said she believes that this is the "perfect opportunity to showcase what Cottage Grove has to offer."

With only a few hotels in the city, most of the participants and their families will be staying in surrounding areas, but Wenshau said local businesses will still reap the benefits.

"When they're here, let's keep them here," she said, encouraging establishments to jump at the opportunity for an increase in sales.

Both Albert and Wenshau said they are excited about the tournament and the extra attention Cottage Grove will be receiving.

While this influx of visitors may present challenges in parking and traffic, a little extra patience will continue to make the weekend special.

"It's all about making memories and lasting impressions on these girls," Albert said.