Welcome to basketball fans

Thanksgiving week is always an exciting time on Maui — and not just because we’re getting ready to give thanks for all our blessings and fill the ol’ tank with turkey and stuffing.

One of the highlights of the week is always the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, conducted annually at the Lahaina Civic Center. This year’s tournament will feature teams from Arizona, Auburn, Duke, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State, San Diego State and Xavier.

The action will tip off Monday morning with Auburn facing Xavier at 9:30 a.m. That game will be followed by Duke vs. San Diego State at noon, then Arizona vs. Iowa State at 4 p.m. Monday’s final game will see Gonzaga take on Illinois at 6:30 p.m.

For sports fans on the Mainland, the Maui Jim Invitational is the true tipoff of the college basketball season. It may end with March Madness, but for the true zealot it begins with Lahaina Lunacy.

It also is an invaluable promotional tool for the Maui visitor industry. Gorgeous shots of our island paradise will be broadcast around the world on ESPN’s networks Monday through Wednesday.

The Maui Jim Maui Invitational will be followed in January by the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. While it is no longer the first tournament of the PGA season (several fall tournaments are included in the 2018-19 chase for the FedEx Cup), it is the first tournament of the new year.

These sports events burnish Maui’s image around the world. It is impossible to calculate how many visitors are driven to book their vacation here by the images seen during these events.

Of course, there is also the direct economic impact. The Maui Jim Maui Invitational will add several million dollars to our economy this week.

So, thanks to the teams and the fans who are gathered here. We know you’ll enjoy your stay and want you to know we appreciate having you here.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.