CEDAR CITY – The Utah Summer Games officially began with the lighting of the cauldron at Thursday night’s 29th Opening Ceremonies at Southern Utah University’s Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City as 100 American flags lined the perimeter of the track at the Coliseum serving as a backdrop to the march of athletes who paraded behind banner bearers advertising each sport in the games. Olympic music played in the background, giving the stadium and the march an Olympic feel.
As the athletes marched onto the football field in front of the stage, the Return – a Beatles tribute band – put on a memorable performance.
“I thought it was great, what was really a fun surprise was we didn’t know they were going to be down on the field,” band member Michael Fulop, who portrayed George Harrison, said. “We didn’t know the kids would be down in front, so that made it a lot of fun for us.”
The young crowd was unexpected by the band, but seemed really excited as they sang and danced to the songs, band member Richard Stelling, who portrayed John Lennon, said. It made for a cool experience.
The Return played early Beatles hits along with popular songs from later in their career.
“I thought they were really good,” Summer Games Director Casey McClellan said. “One of the things we try to find is a group that can play to all ages and I think the young kids seemed to be having a lot of fun out there, a lot of folks in the stands were singing along – that’s really what we were looking for and I think overall it was really popular.”
Real Salt Lake mascot, Leo the Lion, added to the ceremony arriving by Upper Limit Aviation helicopter that dropped him at the top of the Harris Center at the south end of the Coliseum. Leo proceeded to jump 30 feet off of the center onto pads waiting below where kids welcomed him as he shot Real Salt Lake t-shirts into the cheering crowd.
The Opening Ceremonies closed as the sky was lit with a much anticipated firework show, perhaps the most popular event of the ceremonies.
“The fireworks are the best, it’s fun to see the kid’s reaction to them,” Smithfield resident Brad Stull said, “they just look forward to them all day long.”
The Opening Ceremonies are enjoyed by many, including locals and visitors. For the Jewkes family, it has been a way to participate in the community.
Since coming to SUU as student athletes, Nate and Danielle Jewkes from American Fork and South Jordan, respectively, have made the opening ceremonies an annual tradition.
“(In 2012) we got married and it was our first summer together and we decided to stay in Cedar City and then we heard about the Summer Games,” Danielle Jewkes said. “We knew we wanted to be involved with Cedar City, we wanted to get to know what it was all about.”
After first attending the opening ceremonies, the Jewkes family now volunteers each year to help with the annual kickoff.
“I guess our main motivation was kind of just being involved with Cedar City festivities,” Danielle Jewkes said, “being a part of what Cedar City does.”
The Utah Summer Games competition resumes with the 10K run, girls gymnastics, singles racquetball, pistol shooting, youth soccer, swimming and women’s indoor volleyball. For more competition information, visit the Utah Summer Games online.
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