30 years of Utah Summer Games; Britton Shipp carries opening ceremony torch

Banners advertising the sports at Utah Summer Games lead the march of the athletes, Eccles Coliseum, Cedar City, Utah, June 12, 2014 | Photo by Corey Baumgartner, Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Utah Summer Games officially kick off Thursday evening with the traditional opening ceremonies in Cedar City, marking the 30th anniversary of the games’ beginning.

The honored position of torch lighter is given every year to someone who embodies the “spirit of the Games.” This year, St. George resident Britton Shipp, a teen making  a miraculous recovery after spending more than 160 days in a coma following an ATV accident in 2014, was asked to take on the responsibility.

In the last 30 years, the games have grown to include more than 40 sports, and the individual sports have grown since last year, with 22 more soccer teams registering to compete this year and 74 basketball teams competing in the high school tournament over the weekend — the most the event has ever had.

The games pulled in over 9,000 participants last year, and Casey McClellan, director, said about that many are expected this year.

While the numbers are nice, McClellan said, the focus of games organizers is giving people a good experience and making them want to come back the next year.

The ceremonies and games will have a familiar feel this year for anyone who has attended them before, as McClellan said they are sticking with a tried-and-true formula.

“You know, what we’ve found is things aren’t broke, and so we don’t want to try and fix something that seems to be running well,” he said.

The biggest change, McClellan said, has been reducing the youth soccer tournament from four days to three days, to minimize the length of time teams have to be away from home.

The 30-year milestone is a great time to look back at how far the games have come, McClellan said.

“I mean, every year to us is a milestone; obviously, 30 years is an important one,” he said. “But each year … we’re encouraged by where we are and the quality of the events that we have going on.”

He said he hopes Gerald Sherratt, former SUU president and founder of the games, continues to be proud of what the event has become.

As usual, the entertainment for the opening ceremonies will include a parade of athletes and fireworks.

Organizers try to model the event as closely as possible to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, McClellan said.

There will also be musical entertainment, as usual, with Utah group Party Chasers performing hit songs from the ’80s and on.

An all-star drill team, with students from high schools around Southern Utah, will also perform at the opening ceremonies.

The Jazz Bear, a crowd favorite, will be back at the ceremonies, McClellan said, after not performing there the last couple of years.

Since the PRCA rodeo will be in town, the games was also able to get Bert Davis, “The Coppertown Clown,” to perform, along with one of his rescue dogs.

While McClellan said games organizers do make some mistakes, they always try to fix them and improve.

“Overall, I think the Utah Summer Games are in a very good place,” he said.

Event details

  • What: Utah Summer Games opening ceremonies
  • When: Thursday, June 11, 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Eccles Coliseum, Southern Utah University, 99 S. 1100 West, Cedar City
  • Cost: $7 for adults | $5 for children ages 3-11
  • Tickets: SUU Centrum Ticket Office | (435) 586-7872 or tbirdtickets.com

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