It was a fitting way to start the festivities.
Seconds after the words,”I’d like to officially declare these games open,” were uttered by organizer Daniel White, a cheer erupted from the thousands of athletes, spectators and volunteers at 35th annual Special Olympics of Surry County Spring Games. And the sounds of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” filled the air.
The games got under way shortly after 9 a.m. at Mount Airy High School, featuring more than 300 athletes from every school in the county’s three school districts, group homes and individual participants.
During the event, the athletes competed in events designed to offer something for all skill levels, including wheelchair rolls, a 25-meter walk, standing and running long jumps and a 100-meter dash.
In addition to the friendly competition, the day featured a torch lighting by Sawyers and Sheriff Graham Atkinson, a performance of the National Anthem by the Mount Airy Middle School Show Chorus and a place called Olympic Town.
“The Olympic Town is a place where the athletes go when they’re not competing and rest and have fun,” White said, noting that organizers do everything in their power to make it a special day for competitors. “It’s probably the favorite place for the athletes.”
In addition to the athletes, more than 300 Mount Airy High School students served as “buddies, or traditional students who were assigned to assist the athletes.
The games also drew local dignitaries including Mayor Deborah Cochran, members of the county and city boards of commissioners and school board officials.
Surveying the games, Mount Airy School Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said he was absolutely amazed.
“This is the first one we’ve hosted and it’s just great,” he said. “I think this is one of the best days of the year, and if you can’t get excited about an event like this you may want to check your pulse.”
While announcing the participants, Master of Ceremonies David Bumgarner summed up the event: “This is a day for setting aside rivalries,” he said as students from rivals North Surry High School and Mount Airy High School cheered each other on.
It was a spirit noted by one dignitary.
“It’s just great to be here,” said Mount Airy Commissioner Jim Armbrister. “There is a lot of love here.”
There were also a lot of smiles.
“I’m having fun,” said athlete Timothy Sawyers. “I love coming to these because I get to see all my friends.”
White said he was impressed with the enthusiasm of the crowd in attendance this year.
“It’s just overwhelming,” he said quietly as yet another call for him came over the radio. “And these volunteers? Their hearts are as big as all outdoors. I just couldn’t do it without them.”
County Commissioner Larry Phillips, who offered the opening prayer for the event, said the spirit of the day spoke volumes about the Surry County community.
“I’m so glad we live in a place where everyone is valued equally,” he said as he was nearly run over by an enthusiastic athlete trying to get to their event. “This is just a wonderful thing.”
In the background, a cheer erupted as other athletes gave everything they had.
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.