COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia city leaders, residents, participants and vendors say they are thrilled to see large-scale events like the Show-Me State Games and Missouri State Senior Games return to Columbia.
The State Senior Games kicked off Thursday and will run through Sunday with more than 20 sports for participants to compete in. The Show-Me State Games also began Thursday and continue into July.
Individuals looking to compete are required to register for events, participants can find that form on the games' website.
Those competing were not required to receive the coronavirus vaccine. However, organizers said most have been vaccinated because of their age. Older people are more vulnerable to the worst complications of COVID-19, including death.
Megan McConachie with the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau said events like this have a positive impact on the community, especially within the city's hospitality businesses.
McConachie said tourism, in general, is starting to increase and many are optimistic as conferences, meetings and sporting events begin to return to Columbia.
Dave Fox, executive director of the Show-Me State Games said the group takes pride in bringing business and tourism to Mid-Missouri.
Fox said it's something they take seriously and that organizers understand the importance, especially this year, of the revenue generated from people participating in the games.
Fox said same-day registration makes it difficult to grasp just how big this year's event will be, but he expects the games to reach pre-pandemic levels.
People from all across the country come to the senior games, with over 20 states being represented including Oklahoma, Texas and even Alaska, he said.
Heather Lewandowski, President of the Show Me Pickleball Club, has worked with the Show-Me State Games for years and said the turnout this year is unlike any she's seen.
Daniel Feltz, a participant in Thursday's events, said getting back out with people his age has been like "a new lease on life."
The 75-year-old said he was thrilled to get back out and compete against others his age. "Win or lose you just be happy that you're up on your feet able to compete and have fun," he said.