The State Games of Mississippi kicks off Friday

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - In the 28 years since its inception, the State Games of Mississippi have grown in numerous ways – from the number of participants to the increasing list of sports. However, Friday’s Opening Ceremonies continue to be a favorite among athletes and staff alike.

“It’s so exciting to see all of these kids with their signs with their little – dressed up in different eras – having the best time of their lives,” said State Games Executive Director, Carolyn Smith. “Now opening ceremonies to me is pretty fabulous throughout. But, the athletes themselves because they’re what makes the event.”

Nearly six thousand athletes from across the state will be participating in the 40 events offered throughout the Games – none of which would be possible without the support of the community. Four hundred volunteers, sponsorships and donations have allowed the non-profit to flourish annually.

“We couldn’t do it without the involvement and the caring, you know, from these people so I think the town and the county itself has also welcomed the state games of Mississippi,” Smith said.

The State Games mission may be promoting healthy lifestyles, but first year Director of Marketing and Development, Bobbie Harmon, says the event also provides an opportunity to showcase the Meridian community.

“Especially because we’re headquartered here, I really hope that they see the hospitality from our local community, from the volunteers, from our staff,” she said. “I hope that they have such a great experience that they want to come back the next year and the year after that and the year after that.”

Many soccer families will make their hotel reservations for the following year immediately after the conclusion of their tournaments. The Games have existed long enough to the point where participation spans multiple generations.

“It’s the amazing thing right there is when you see this child as a little child, you know, playing and then in a few years, here comes their children back playing,” said Smith. “It means so much. It just. It is just so exciting to see kids and continue to do this.”

Opening Ceremonies will be held Friday on the City Hall lawn with festivities kicking off at 5pm.