2009 State Games Open Friday

By: Lindsey Brown Email
By: Lindsey Brown Email

Thousands of people come to Meridian and surrounding areas to participate in the State Games of Mississippi. The amateur athletes bring their families and friends. It means a significant economic impact for restaurants, stores and hotels.

Not only are local streets packed, but just about all Meridian hotels are booked solid.

"It's the largest single event Meridian experiences a year." said Steve Anderson of Hilton Garden Inn.

That's why this busy weekend is one Anderson counts on. His rooms fill up months before the State Games weekends. Anderson and his crew have spent the past week preparing for the large crowds.

"We expect people from all over the state coming to Meridian," said Lauderdale County tourism director Suzy Johnson.

Not only are the State Games weekends an economic high for the county, but they are also an opportunity to promote all this area has to offer, and hopefully, leave visitors wanting to make a return trip to the Queen City.

"We provide the hotels with visitors guides, and of course, we have our Web site," Johnson said.

There was concern that the recession could cut down on the number of participants making the trip to Meridian, but so far, so good.

"When children are involved, let me tell you, you find a way to do it," said State Games vice-president Carolyn Smith. "And I think some people are making it a vacation trip for their families."

According to Smith, last year's decision to move the opening ceremonies from Ray Stadium to downtown Meridian allowed the State Games to recognize the heart of Meridian while also recognizing the many athletes who make this event possible.

"You should have seen the comments we got from the out-of-town visitors," Smith said. "They loved it; they love our downtown and this is what we want to promote."

This year the Meridian area does have more hotels rooms than last summer, but Johnson says those rooms were also booked long before this weekend.

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