About 2,000 coaches and athletes will fill Hall County this weekend when the county hosts the Fall 2018 Games for Special Olympics Georgia for the fifth consecutive year.
Sporting events, which will include bocce ball, cycling, golf and softball will be Oct. 19 and 20 at several county parks, including North Hall Park and Laurel Park. Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center will host the Special Olympics State Horse Show, and golfers will go to Chateau Elan.
The Fall Games will also celebrate the milestone of Special Olympics’ 50th anniversary, and Hall County Parks and Leisure will host a fireworks show during the opening ceremony on Friday at Laurel Park.
The county estimates that attendees will spend about $500,000 in the community this weekend on lodging, food and events, according to a press release.
Scott Crain, the Special Olympics area coordinator for Hall, said there are about 900 registered athletes from age 8 to over age 50 in Hall County, and 123 of them will be participating in this weekend’s Fall Games.
Crain, who has been involved with Special Olympics for 14 years, is also a coach and has a son who is a multi-sport athlete.
Crain said athletes look forward to the Fall Games to see their hard work and training pay off and spend time with friends.
“These are their circle of friends. They play basketball together, they play bocce ball, they kayak, they spend time together,” he said.
Meghan Daves, spokeswoman for Special Olympics Georgia, said athletes train for at least eight weeks before competitions, but for many athletes, training is year-round. Special Olympics Georgia also hosts Winter Games, Summer Games and a Masters Bowling Competition each year in other locations in the state.
Daves said for athletes and coaches, “this is their version of the Super Bowl.”
“This is the be-all, end-all,” Daves said. “These events are just so great because it really shows not only the coaches and the athletes that they are capable of going above and beyond their expectations and goals, but it also shows the public and kind of breaks that stereotype that individuals with intellectual disabilities can only do so much because of their disability.”
Mike Little, director of Hall County Parks and Leisure, said the event is a way for Hall County to welcome people from around Georgia and make new connections.
“It’s been exciting and rewarding,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of friends from other parts of the state, and we’ve really enjoyed it.”