The 22nd annual Summer Slam was canceled, as the community continued to mourn the death of the event’s organizer, Ernie Walthour Sr.
The event — which was to include tournaments, concerts, a carnival and a car-and-motorcycle show — was scheduled to start today and was expected to draw more than 25,000 people.
Walthour reportedly was shot to death during an attempted armed robbery early Monday near Midway, according to Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes.
Reginalde Castille, a coach with Walthour’s Coastal Crew Rebels, confirmed the cancellation. No plans for future Summer Slams have been announced.
The event had drawn teams from Savannah to Brunswick, including Walthour’s Rebels, and also was going to include its first soccer tournament. Walthour had said he was looking forward to bringing basketball back to the forefront of Summer Slam. The games would have started today and continued through Saturday.
Instead, the St. James Sports Center, where the basketball games would have been played, will be the site of Walthour’s funeral Saturday. His body will be placed at the center of the court, with viewing at noon Saturday and services starting at 2 p.m.
Visitation is 6-7 tonight at Thebes AME Church, 132 Walthour Road in Midway.
Walthour started Summer Slam more than two decades ago, showcasing 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 outdoor basketball tournaments in an effort to keep the area’s youth engaged in sports and out of trouble. In its early days, Summer Slam was held at Joseph Miller Park.
The event expanded and became a venue for local car and motorcycle enthusiasts, as well as local musicians. Summer Slam drew large crowds and was moved to Salter’s Field to accommodate the spectators that started to number in the thousands.
With no basketball courts and due to the extreme outdoor heat, Walthour scaled back Summer Slam, turning it into a day-long event featuring car and motorcycle shows, food and retail vendors, an audio decibel drag and live concerts showcasing local talent. Walthour had said he tried to schedule near the Fourth of July to give folks in the community something to do in town.
The event continued to grow, and last year a carnival was added. Walthour said he wanted to encourage and provide a fun family atmosphere at the yearly event. The carnival was open all week long.
Walthour was thrilled in knowing he would be able to come full circle with Summer Slam and bring sports back into the event.
“The people kept asking us to bring it back so, this year, we decided to host the basketball tournament indoors at the St. James Sports Center,” Walthour told the Courier in May. “And we will have a soccer tournament, too.”
Youth sports, especially basketball, were important to Walthour. He formed the Coastal Crew Rebels boys’ basketball team and served as the founder, coach and mentor for many boys and girls teams since 1998. Under his leadership, 67 Rebels have earned college scholarships.
He coached The Fort Stewart Youth ChalleNGe Academy basketball team and was in the process of getting games scheduled against local high schools, allowing the YCA players an opportunity to be scouted and recruited to college.
He was the boys’ head coach for First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s basketball team, guiding the Highlanders to back-to-back state-title games and finishing second both times.