The Meridian Star
Officials for the State Games of Mississippi met Thursday April 11 at the Riley Center in downtown Meridian to announce sponsors for what will be the biggest year in the event's 22-year history.
The State Games have added three additional sporting events from last year's games, moving the total number of sporting events to 37. Cross fit, jujitsu and youth basketball are among the additions for 2013.
“The two we are most excited about are cross fit and jujitsu,” State Games marketing director Leslie Lee said. “We started 22 years ago with only 12 events and 1,200 people involved in the games. Now we are up to 37 events spread throughout the state, and we have over 5,000 athletes representing every county in Mississippi.”
With the exception of the canoe/kayak & paddle board event, which begins May 11, the games will begin the first weekend of June.
The State Games also features the annual Olympic-style opening ceremonies sponsored by Coca-Cola on Friday, June 14. For the second-straight year, the event will take place on the grounds of City Hall in Downtown Meridian. Lee said the event typically brings out 8,000-10,000 people each year.
“It was so successful last year, we decided to hold it in front of City Hall again this year,” Lee said. “We have the parking garage, it offers plenty of parking. It is just a great venue to host it, plus we get to show off our new city hall.”
The event will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with live music, followed by a parade of athletes representing every city participating in the event. The ceremony will rap up with the lighting of the torch, as a flame will be zip-lined from the Doughboy Memorial into the State Games cauldron on stage, followed by a professional firework display.
“It's really a visual spectacular if you have never seen it before,” Lee said. “It is really neat. We have a producer that comes in and designs the show, and they do a fantastic job with everything.”
This year, the flame will be lighted by 2012 male and female athletes of the year Kristy and Dallas Stricker of Hattiesburg. The duo is the first pair siblings to be represent the State Games in the event's history. Dallas captured the state's attention last year, as the then five-year-old lifted 70 pounds and ran the 5K race in less than 30 minutes. Dallas and Kristy (17 years old) follow the footsteps of their sister Kayla Stricker, who was voted athlete of the year three years ago.
“Last year they participated in over eight events each,” Lee said of Dallas and Kristy Striker. “They are a very athletic family. What Dallas did last year was amazing, and his sister Kayla is equally fantastic.”
The State Games run an economic impact survey every five years. According to Lee, the last survey conducted in 2010 reported the games brought in $6.5 million to the East Mississippi community in the month of June alone.
“With more athletes come more sports and people involved,” Lee said. “As long as we have that community involvement and the corporate responsibilities of our local businesses and cooperations that support us and help us out financially, we will be able to grow.”
With the exception of All-Star Baseball, which requires tryouts, Mississippi residents of all ages and abilities are invited to participate in the games. Participants must be Mississippi residents for at least 30 days prior to the first day of competition for their sport. Athletes from other states may participate if their state does not offer its own state games. Registration for the games will open April 22. Those interested in applying can do so online at www.stategamesofms.com or by calling 601-482-0205 or 800-482-0205.