Bobby Holmberg, with Craig Horizons, crossed the finish line last year while competing in the 400-meter wheelchair race at the Special Olympics in Craig. This year's Special Olympics in Craig are today and Saturday.

file photo

Bobby Holmberg, with Craig Horizons, crossed the finish line last year while competing in the 400-meter wheelchair race at the Special Olympics in Craig. This year's Special Olympics in Craig are today and Saturday.

Let the games begin

Craig plays host city today and Saturday for Special Olympics

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Story at a glance

• Special Olympics' Western Area Summer Games is a long-standing tradition in Craig.

• More than 200 athletes and coaches participating in this year's event.

• Local games draw participants from Craig, Steamboat Springs, Hayden and other Western Slope cities and towns.

• Athletes compete at Moffat County High School in track and field, aquatics and power-lifting.

— There came a moment Thursday when a Craig woman, without any prompting, asked Kiwanis Club member Jim Herschberg a question.

"Out of the clear blue, she said, 'Hey, you need some help Friday or Saturday?'" recalled Herschberg, games director for this weekend's annual Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games.

The woman's question reinforced how much the community has embraced Special Olympics, Herschberg said.

Craig, site of the Western Area Summer Games since the 1980s, once again plays host city today and Saturday for about 370 athletes, coaches, family members and volunteers.

The Kiwanis Club, Moffat County School District and more than 50 area businesses are sponsoring the event. Added to that, 65 to 100 people have volunteered to help run the event.

"For me personally, next to the athletics, the most exciting thing is the volunteerism," Herschberg said.

Eleven teams - including about 20 Craig and 25 Steamboat Springs athletes - will participate in the games featuring track and field, aquatic and power-lifting events at Moffat County High School.

But, although the games have been supported in some community circles, organizers said they are hoping for a better spectator turnout. Previous games have drawn anywhere from 50 to 80 people in the stands.

"I encourage people to come and witness the opening ceremony at 9 (a.m.) and the events starting right after that," said Julie Fite, Special Olympics Colorado Western area manager. "It would be great for people to come. It's a true ceremony. It would be neat for people to come out and see that and cheer on the athletes."

An Olympic Town dinner and dance for the athletes, family members and volunteers is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. today at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion. The dinner and dance also are open to the public.

Kickoff to the games begins about 8:45 a.m. Saturday with the torch run. The symbolic opening of the competition, the torch run starts in the parking lot of Safeway Food & Drug, 1295 Victory Way, and culminates with a lap around the high school track.

Craig athletes, along with local law enforcement officers, will carry the torch in a relay leading to the high school track area. From there, a Rangely athlete will carry the torch for a lap around the track.

An awards ceremony will take place about 12:30 p.m. in the high school's gymnasium.

Fite said competing in the games is a crowning moment for athletes, who are advised to train up to six weeks before.

"It's a time and place for them to show that their hard work has paid off," she said. "I think they have proven and continue to do so that they can become viable members of society. This empowers them even more."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 875-1791, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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