MARSHALL - One of Marshall's most popular, long-standing, non-sporting events is looking for a new primary sponsor.
What has been known as the Schwan's Speech Spectacular for the past 14 years will have a new name by the time the 2015 tournament rolls around, as the Schwan Food Co. has decided to discontinue its sponsorship of the tournament.
"We have communicated with Speech Spectacular coordinators that we will not be continuing our sponsorship in 2015. We have enjoyed being the sponsor for this fantastic event over the past 14 years," Chuck Blomberg, communication manager with Schwan, said in a statement. "The event's organizers are the reason that the Speech Spectacular is regarded as one of the most prestigious tournaments in the Midwest, and we wish them well as they continue these efforts."
The annual speech event has grown into one of the most recognizable of its kind during the last decade and is widely considered one of the premiere speech events in the Upper Midwest.
Marshall speech coach Rick Purrington expressed his gratitude to Marshall's largest employer for its support during the last 14 years.
"Speaking for both the MHS Speech Team Booster Club and its team members past and present, I am incredibly grateful for The Schwan Food Company's support of the tournament these past 14 years," said Purrington. "Truly, this great local event would not have emerged if it weren't for Schwan's support. For a company to step forward and say, 'We are going to support this academic activity and seek to grow it' isn't often seen these days. But Schwan's did that. And there are thousands of students who are grateful that they did. So, obviously, I am disappointed to be ending the partnership with Schwan's."
The two-day speech tournament, which Purrington said "started as a wild idea in the summer of 1999" attracts the top speech teams from the Upper Midwest every year. What started with just a few participating teams has grown exponentially since its inception, attracting more than 800 students in as many as seven states to Marshall every year.
Purrington said the speech community is looking forward to establishing new partnerships that will help grow the tournament even more in the future and generate more community involvement.
"As far as plans moving forward, the Speech Boosters hope to find a new, local primary sponsor for the tournament so the event can continue to grow," he said.
The three other overall tournament sponsors last year were US Bank, Southwest Minnesota State University and Avera Marshall. The tournament also has a local sponsor for almost every speech category, as well as about a dozen "Gold Sponsors."
The 2015 event is scheduled for Jan. 30-31.