Cornhusker State Games less than a week away
Lincoln-The Opening Ceremonies for the 28th annual Cornhusker State Games--featuring skydivers, fireworks, a parade of athletes, a new sport demo, a trampoline acrobatics routine, a concert by D*Funk, a tribute to a decorated high school wrestling coach and the revelation of the Mystery Torchlighter--are set for 8 p.m. Friday, July 20 at Lincoln's Seacrest Field, 7600 A St.
Competition actually begins this weekend, with 429 swimmers getting a jump-start and taking to the water at Woods Pool Saturday and Sunday. The remainder of the 65 sports commence on July 20, with more than 11,000 athletes registered overall.
The Opening Ceremonies are preceded by SportFest at 5 p.m. featuring a meal for athletes and guests, inflatable games, temporary tattoos, an interactive archery demo, a meet-and-greet with the Husker women's basketball team, field-goal kicking and free-throw contests and several performances by Lincoln's HJ Dance Academy. Organizers expect more than 5,000 at SportFest and 9,000 at the Opening Ceremonies.
Ceremonies are kicked off by the Olympic-style parade of athletes, led by long-time Kearney wrestling coach and 1997 CSG Male Athlete of the Year Tom McCann as the honorary parade marshal. McCann retired earlier this year after a 45-year coaching career.
Celebrity guests include Miss Nebraska-USA Amy Spilker, U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Brigadier General Daryl Bohac of the Nebraska National Guard and three UNL Track & Field All-Americans, including Discus throwers Morgan Wilken and Tyler Hitchler and long jumper Chris Phipps. The tracksters will administer the oath of athletes and take part in the presentation of the torch to the mystery torchlighter.
Skydiver Mike Blackshear will make his 28th jump into the Opening Ceremonies for a perfect attendance record since the Games began in 1985. Fellow jumper Larry Bartlett, who will-as usual-fly in with the American flag in tow with 27 Games O.C appearances under his belt.
The sport of CrossFit will be demonstrated in a battle of the sexes competition, followed by a comedic mascot version of the Games' debut sport for 2012. The mascot lineup includes Wally McKnight from Lincoln Southeast, Runza Rex, the Saltdogs' Homer, Sergeant Rock from the National Guard and Sporty the Torch.
The national anthem will be sung by Minden native Laynee Woodward, who won the second annual Cornhusker State Games National Anthem contest. The National Guard Honor Guard will present the colors along with the unrolling of the giant U.S. flag by members of the Air and Army Guard.
The Skyriders, a mainstay on the NBA and NCAA basketball half-time show circuit, last performed at the Cornhusker State Games in 2003. Director and lead jumper Ken Kovac called Lincoln one of his favorite venues.
"There are a few places you remember, and looking eyeball-to-eyeball with the PA announcer in the press booth, is something I'll never forget," Kovac said of their last performance at Seacrest.
D*Funk is a popular Lincoln cover band fronted by Eddie Brown, back by popular demand after last year's performance before 8,500 Opening Ceremonies guests.
Organizers also promise a memorable torch-lighting. Last year, Alex Henery, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, did the honors. Once the caldron is ablaze, this year's honorary chair, Kim Moore, CEO of St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center will declare the Games open. The D*Funk mini-concert and fireworks will cap the show.
Chris Lofgreen, voice of the Lincoln Saltdogs, will handle P.A. announcer duties and KOLN-KGIN anchors Kevin Sjuts, Bridget Fargen, Chad Silber and Erika Tallon will serve as field hosts. Veteran CSG volunteer Dave Tinius is the Opening Ceremonies Producer and Lincoln Journal-Star Entertainment Writer Kent Wolgamott is the show director.
Admission is free for registered athletes. For all others: $7 for adults, $3 for students age 6-18 and free for kids five and under. All admission fees include the SportFest meal and Opening Ceremonies admission. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or at the Nebraska Sports Council offices at 4903 N. 57th Street in Lincoln.
The Cornhusker State Games is conducted by the Nebraska Sports Council. Platinum partners include St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center, BlueCross BlueShield of Nebraska, Nebraska Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine and Anderson Auto Group. Learn more at CornhuskerStateGames.com.
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