BILLING — This weekend in Billings, 6,500 athletes will find themselves either swinging a softball bat at Stewart Park, scoring a 3-pointer at one of the city’s gymnasiums, bowling at Fireside Lanes or competing to one of the other 24 sports contested.
That means only one thing: the annual Big Sky State Games are held in the Magic City.
These will be the 37th annual Big Sky State Games. Overall, around 9,000 athletes in total will participate in BSSG this year. There were 2,000 athletes who competed in the spring sports of curling, dance sports, 8-a-side flag football and ice hockey.
In the summer, some events have already taken place, such as the Triathlon in partnership with the 406 Race Series, Middle School Volleyball, Grade 9-12 Volleyball, Swimming (held in Helena), gravel cycle race, pony show and horse show, action shooting, muzzleloading (in Le Havre) and junior golf.
Events taking place later are the Lawn Quad Volleyball Tournament (July 23-24 at Rose Park), Trap Shooting (July 23 at Billings Trap Club), Cowboy Action and Shooting Wild (July 23-24 at Billings Rod & Gun Club) and Archery (July 23-24 at Blue Creek Sport Shooting). According to an BSSG flyer, figure skating will take place in the fall of 2022.
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A total of 500 additional athletes have already participated in previous events this summer or are expected to compete next weekend.
Athletes from Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho are entered. A total of 35 sports are offered in total, including 27 on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Badminton returns to the sports program this year. The total number of sports on offer is misleading because some events – like shooting, basketball, and cycling – include multiple disciplines or divisions.
“I’m so excited for the Big Sky State Games. It brings people smiles and brings families together,” said BSSG General Manager Liana Susott. “It’s a family tradition for a lot of people. to have the Big Sky State Games.
The State Games Opening Ceremonies will take place Friday with the Soaked Fun Run starting at 5:15 p.m. at Pioneer Park. The gates to Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium open at 5:30 p.m. for a festival that will include interactive booths and live music. Food trucks will also be on site. The opening ceremonies will begin at 7:15 p.m. with a parade of athletes. Admission to the Opening Ceremonies is free.
The Montana Mile, a highlight of the opening ceremonies, will begin between approximately 7:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.
Brad Wilson of Butte, a three-time Freestyle Winter Olympian, is the special guest athlete and will light the BSSG torch.
The sport with the most participation is basketball with 130 total teams in the men’s and women’s divisions from grade 5 to men’s masters.
Volleyball and softball have traditionally been the two most popular sports and are neck and neck in number of participants.
As for individual sports, athletics is the most popular with 470 athletes aged between 7 and 87 years old.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the maximum temperature will approach the triple digits.
“People need to bring their water and shade and wear sunscreen and be aware of their body and temperature and be careful out there,” Susott said.
There is a $5 admission fee for basketball, track and field, and karate. All other events offer free entry.
Susott added that online registration remains open for some sports and those interested should visit the organization’s website at bigskygames.org. To check the status of an event, click on “Register”, then on the sport you want to know more about. If applicable, online registration will close on Wednesday. Some sports also offer on-site registration, and if interested, check out the BSSG website.
While 9,000 athletes will compete this year, volunteers are also key to the success of the State Games. Susott estimates there are 2,000 volunteers and says there are 60 stewards.
“The stewards are the experts in their sport,” Susott said. “We need them. They know the details of every sport.
“The stewards are passionate about their sport and help it grow.”
Email Gazette Sports editor John Letasky at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL