More than 2,500 contestants and 1,000 volunteers who participated in the weekend's Sunflower State Games made the first year of the Lawrence event a successful one, organizers said today.
"I was thrilled with the turnout, the weather, the volunteer effort it was a huge success for the first year," said Judy Billings, director of Lawrence's Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I think we've gotten it off to a terrific start."
Billings said about 150 of the games' contestants entered events on site, putting the total number of participants over the goal of 2,500 that planners had set earlier. Most of those contestants came from Topeka, Lawrence and Johnson County, Billings said.
"Still, we had them coming from all four corners of the state. They really were coming from everywhere," she said. "They'll go back and talk to people in their hometowns, and next year the games will grow a lot."
Billings said a good cross-section of ages was represented as well, as evidence by 5-year-old wrestlers, the 35-and-over basketball teams and a 72-year-old trap shooter.
CRAIG WHITE, sports director for the games, said he would have liked to see more females competing in events. He also would like to hold track events at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium, something that was not possible this year because the stadium's turf was being replaced.
Still, White said he was very pleased with this year's games.
"There's a lot of sweat involved when you take something from ground zero and make it work," White said. "A lot of the planning took place in the weeks before, and I think that showed in how smoothly the games went this weekend."
White said volunteers played a key role in that planning and in running the games themselves. Among duties performed by volunteers were selling souvenirs, timing track events and delivering food and drink to other people helping with the games.
"They really carried the ball for us," White said.
GIL HOLLE of Lawrence, who did some volunteer work in addition to winning the 61-and-over division of the 4-mile cycling competition, said he, too, was pleased with the games.
"I think it was well-organized, and I heard a lot of good comments from contestants on the selection of the cycling course," Holle said. "It's kind of hard to come up with a good 4-mile loop."
Billings said that in addition to providing competition and the opportunity to have some fun, the games were designed for another purpose.
"If we have encouraged people to be physically fit, I think we've been successful," she said.