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franklin county times

State Games: 4,500 athletes, $4 million impact

By Staff
April Luke talks with The Meridian Star's Editorial Board about State Games. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Scottye Carter/The Meridian Star
June 11, 2001
State Games of Mississippi celebrates its 10th year with opening ceremonies scheduled at Meridian High School's Ray Stadium on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The State Games attract athletes and sports-lovers from all over the state, as local hotel rooms book up completely and restaurants fill to overflowing for two weekends every June.
But for April Luke, in her first year as executive director, State Games represents much more. She discussed the event's impact with The Meridian Star's editorial board.
Luke came into the directors job after seven years as a volunteer on the medical team. She works year-round on the State Games.
Luke said many people assume that because the Games take place only in the summer, she only works in the summer. In fact, Luke will start working on the next State Games as soon as these are finished. She will be recruiting sponsors and working on advertising plans.
The advertising plans for next year's Games will have to be modified because Kim Gianakos, whose agency handled the Games for years, was convicted in April of mail fraud. Gianakos Associates has since closed.
One of the internal changes Luke spoke of is hiring a full-time adverting director.
The State Games lures many people into Meridian. Luke said her phone has been ringing constantly with people saying the nearest hotel room they can book is in Forest or even farther away.
Many people have also inquired about campsites, and Luke has encouraged those people to go to Lake Okatibbee or Clarkco State Park's camping grounds.
Overall the games will bring about $4 million to Meridian over the two weekends.
The sports
Luke said 4,500 athletes will participate in 27 sports in the State Games. She expects nearly 10,000 people to attend the opening ceremony including athletes, parents, friends and volunteers.
During the opening ceremony, the athletes participate in a Parade of Athletes. They will all walk in, city by city, and pass by the cheering crowd sitting in the stands. A fireworks show and the torch lighting will follow. After that, the band U.S, from Birmingham, will play 1980 and 1990 rock and roll songs.
The next day, Saturday, June 17, the games start with the youth games.
Luke said the competition has three new additions this year. Fencing will take place in the Bonita Lakes Mall. Luke said that out of about 130 people in the state who are registered fencers, one-third have signed up for the games already.
The Equestrian Division of the games has added two new sports, including a donkey and mule show and western pleasure. Those will be on the second weekend of the Games.
There are a few new locations for games, including East Central Community College for basketball, but overall, the events will be in the same locations as last year.
Luke said she still needs volunteers.
Scottye Carter is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551.