State Games of Mississippi:
10,000 attend opening ceremony
BIG NOISE Jonathan Greer of Clinton cheers among other athletes Friday during opening ceremonies. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
June 16, 2001
With late evening heat beating down, thousands of athletes and fans turned out Friday to celebrate the 10th annual State Games of Mississippi's opening ceremonies at Meridian High School's Ray Stadium.
Athletes smiled, cheered, waved and threw candy to an equally wild and ecstatic group of friends, family members and fans in the bleachers as they completed the Parade of Athletes. They walked in teams alphabetized by city around the MHS track.
Volunteers steered them into the stands opposite the crowd of fans to hear Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove welcome them.
Mississippi Olympian Willye White stepped to the microphone.
Some of the athletes were so engrossed in repeating their athletic oath after White and the other Olympians, they even repeated, "Thank you and be seated," as the oath ended.
After opening speakers completed their words of welcome and congratulations, three paratroopers dropped to the field with the American flag as the national anthem resounded through the speakers.
Moments later, the crowd of athletes took to the field as U.S., a 1980s and '90s hit-singing group from Birmingham, Ala., began to play.
Over the next two weekends, 4,500 athletes will compete against each other in 24 sports. State Games Executive Director April Luke said earlier this week she expected nearly 10,000 people to attend opening ceremonies. The economic impact of State Games is expected to exceed $4 million.
Jacob Land, a soccer player from Lamar, said he planned to turn in early.
He played in 1995 and 1997, and said his soccer has gotten a little better since he played last. He recently moved to Meridian from Greenwood.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.