ANTIGONISH, N.S. - It’s not quite to the scale of last summer’s national Special Olympic Summer Games coming to Antigonish, but it’s a “big deal,” and will see a large influx of people visiting the area in the midst of the summer season.
The provincial 2019 Nova Scotia 55+ Games will take place in Antigonish and surrounding area from July 31 to Aug. 3; coincidentally, the exact dates of last year’s Special Olympic event.
“We’re expecting a minimum of 700 participants,” Tricia Cameron, director of recreation and special events for the Town of Antigonish, said.
“Looking at previous games, 700 was the minimum, so our expectation is that we’ll exceed that number.”
Cameron noted a big difference between the two events is that the athletes coming to Antigonish for the 55 + Games don’t have the coaches and support staff accompanying them, like last year’s Special Olympic teams.
“But our expectation is that there will be a huge influx of people,” she said, agreeing that the event could act as a meeting spot for some families; as mom and dad participate, their grown children meet them in the area for support and, perhaps, because it’s closer to their home than where their parents live.
Cameron and event co-chair Diane Roberts, the veteran town councillor, said hosting the event is a close partnership between the town and Municipality of the County of Antigonish.
The logo for the event, created by town councillor Andrew Murray along with James Smeaton, indicates the partnership with representation of colours and graphics representing the two municipalities.
“We’re very pleased with it,” Roberts, holding a copy of the logo, said.
“The next step is getting a budget together; what we’re going to spend … that’s coming together,” she added.
“Then looking for sponsorship; that is next on the list.”
Another example of the town working closely with the county on the 55 + provincial games is that veteran county councillor Vaughn Chisholm is the other co-chair.
“There is a lot of work to be done yet,” Roberts said.
“We’re also learning as we go along; this is certainly a new venture for me, something I wasn’t expecting to be helping out with.”
She added she is “very impressed” with the committee which has come together to organize the event.
Cameron talked about being in good shape due to having a lot of support from those who worked on regional 55 + Games in the past (held mostly in St. Andrews) and the experience gathered from last year’s Special Olympic event.
“The group who was responsible for the local, regional 55 + Games, Seniors Getting Involved Association, we have a lot of them,” she said.
“They will be on different [sub] committees; will work in reception areas, welcoming areas, we have an opening and closing ceremony and medal presentations.
“The best practices pieces for us come from doing the Special Olympics; we have a lot of people at the table who were part of the organizing group for the Special Olympics.
“And we are in a pretty good position because we had our volunteer database together and our communication strategy put in place by our communication expert Kate Gorman [town marketing and communication officer] … she has been great.”
Cameron said the list of sports and opportunity to register will be coming up soon, and that those familiar with the regional games will notice there is a huge expansion of events with the provincial games.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, something for everyone,” she said, adding most events will take place around St. F.X. campus for convenience and accessibility reasons, but that places like Keppoch Mountain and Lochaber are involved for activities such as geocaching, disc golf, mountain biking, tennis and rowing.
“We’re doing the majority of our events on campus because we have the facilities; some of the events can’t be on campus,” Cameron said.
“We’re very grateful to St. F.X. for what they’ve offered us,” Roberts said.
“I’m looking forward to it; it’s certainly going to be a wonderful event for the whole town and county. And it should bring a lot of business to our merchants. People coming downtown at a time when the flowers will be all out … it will be beautiful.”
Stay tuned for more information being released about the Nova Scotia 55+ Games as preparations continue to unfold.