There are pies. Chocolate cake. Barbecue ribs.

At Ozark, they had these giant baked potatoes people would cover with slabs of butter, sour cream, cheese and chili — the kind with red beans and onions.

It's Hospitality Season in Arkansas. (Well, round one, anyway.)

There were four tournaments within the Fort Smith area this week; five if you include the hour-plus drive to Russellville.

Post-Christmas tournaments allow teams a chance to re-connect following short layoffs. Cedarville, Charleston, Lavaca, Southside, Ozark and Paris. They were hooping it up from the Ozark Activity Center, to the bright lights of Alma's Charles B. Dyer Arena, to UAFS' Stubblefield Center.

Down in Mansfield, the gregarious Bill Frye was no doubt sharing stories at the "Bill Frye Classic," where upstart Booneville and Waldron seemed destined for a clash in the championship game.

And the fellowship? Plenty to be found the hospitality room.

"I remember as a kid, my dad would give me a few dollars and drop me off at the old Dr Pepper Christmas Tournament in Charleston," County Line girls coach Ryan Casalman told me.

"Shoot, that was the highlight of my Christmas; being dropped off at the gym," Casalman said. "I would be there all day."

Casalman's Lady Indians, and their well-traveled fans, filled the HAC this week, happily rooting on their beloved County Line basketball team.

At Alma, the longtime voice of the Airedales, Toney McMurray has everything he needs for the start of Thursday's tournament; a green bowl of mints and his youngest son, Jackson, loyally sitting to his left.

"I've been here since 8:30," McMurray said. "I think I'll go home; I may even grade some papers.

"And then we'll do it again tomorrow."

Basketball tournaments are not an Arkansas-thing, though the goodies in the friendly hospitality rooms seem to be unlike any other place I've ever visited.

My home state of Texas hosted tournaments, too, including the once-upon-a-time Lovelady Thanksgiving Tournament.

In 1994, coach Don Tullus brought in 32 teams to compete in the four-day tournament. They came from Miami, Phoenix, Cincinnati and Houston, filling up this 30-year-old gym with hours of basketball.

Arkansas schools were there, too, including John Hutchcraft's high-flying Guy-Perkins Thunderbirds, Drew Central and a tiny school south of Mena called Van Cove.

It was here I came across the greatest basketball story ever. Her name was Jamie Scheppmann. On the final game of the night, Friday's late-night matchup pitted Barbers Hill (Texas) and Van Cove.

Sheppman scored 19 points in overtime and finished with 68 points in the Lady Hornets' 94-89 victory.

In an ironic twist to that night, and by ironic, I mean the ultimate irony of a story — where my future became intertwined with the past — I remember sitting in Lovelady's makeshift hospitality room and chatting with Van-Cove coach Gary Simmons.

Simmons attended Alma schools; his dad, Jim, was actually the girls basketball coach at Mountainburg when my wife and I set up roots in Arkansas in 1999.

So yeah, we'll have more tournaments in the months to come. Small-school district tournaments; regional tournaments.

Then the ultimate; the state tournament.

And the fellowship? Just follow the trail of cake crumbs to the hospitality room.