Counting down to Special Olympics Festival

Bridget Nyland

This weekend, Villanova hosts Special Olympics Fall Festival, the Wild West Fest.

The athletes will begin to arrive and register at 12 p.m. tomorrow. The official opening ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Pavilion. Villanova track Coach Marcus L. Sullivan will be the keynote speaker, and Jared Campbell will perform songs he composed specifically for Special Olympics.

New to this year’s event, a real torch will be run around the campus to mark the games’ beginning.

“The torch was considered in past years but was never implemented because of safety issues,” said senior Mallory Smith, director of administration. “However, we figured out a way to get a real torch and bring a new symbol of importance to the event.”

The flame will be located outside the Pavilion and supervised by firefighters throughout the weekend. Also, during the opening ceremonies, a live feed of the torch carrying and lighting will be broadcasted.

“We wanted to put the flame somewhere visible and within fire zoning,” senior Carrie Kroll, director of Special Events said. “It required a lot of planning with Public Safety and going over Villanova’s fire codes.”

Competitions will begin around the campus on Friday, but the majority of them will take place on Saturday. The competitions start at 8 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m.

About 1,000 athletes will participate, some as young as six years old. They will compete in one of the weekend’s sports, which include power lifting, soccer, bocce, long distance running, volleyball and roller-skating.

With the exception of roller-skating and bocce, all competitions will be held at venues on campus. All awards will be given out at the competition site.

“The [roller-skating] venue is now at International Sports Centre which is actually 45 minutes away and in New Jersey,” said senior Mallory Karl, director of competition. “The old venue, Skate 309, closed. This change is actually exciting as this venue is amazing and so very helpful.”

Students have been selected as master of ceremonies for the award ceremonies. Student volunteers will also participate in the award ceremonies, presenting the athletes with their awards and helping out with logistics.

Olympic Town, a feature athletes rave about every year, will be in full swing during the weekend. Between 50 and 60 student organizations will participate in the Wild West-themed town, hosting booths with activities ranging from paper airplane making to karaoke. The storm troopers from last year will also make an appearance. New this year, O-Town will feature a petting zoo.

“We’re going to set up hay squares, and there will be a tall cowboy on stilts, as well as the committee dressed up in Old West clothes,” Kroll said.

In addition to O-Town, the athletes will be treated to entertainment from both Villanova and beyond. Kids in Concert will perform outside Bartley Hall throughout the weekend. In addition, there will be performances in the Pit throughout the weekend from various student groups.

The athletes will also enjoy a parade that begins at the Oreo at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and proceeds to the Jake Nevin Field House. Immediately after the parade, the Victory Dance for the athletes will begin in Jake Nevin. For those not choosing to dance, “High School Musical” will also be shown.

Fall Festival will be offering the Healthy Athletes program. This program brings in physicians and offers free health care to the athletes, from glasses fittings to physicals. This service will take place in Bartley Hall.

Finally, after a long weekend of competition and entertainment, the ceremonies will come to a close with a speech by basketball Head Coach Jay Wright.

As always, the committee is looking to break records with volunteer participation. Many volunteers have already signed up for the weekend. Students who wish to volunteer and have not yet signed up to do so can come to the booth outside Jake Nevin anytime during the weekend to pick up a T-shirt. They will be sent to locations where volunteers are needed.

“We’re so excited for the athletes,” Smith said. “The weekend’s going to be a great celebration for them. They love ‘Nova students! So get involved, cheer for them and just get excited!”