Candy, music and fireworks fill the air during Utah Summer Games opening ceremonies; photo and video gallery

CEDAR CITY — The 33rd annual Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games opened with a bang Thursday night, as thousands of athletes and supporters took part in the competition’s lively opening ceremonies.

Although several events had already commenced last weekend, Thursday’s ceremonies marked the official opening of the competition, which includes three dozen sports this year, ranging from archery to wrestling. Click here for full event list and master schedule.

Military veterans unfurl a giant flag prior to the singing of the national anthem, Utah Summer Games opening ceremonies, Cedar City, Utah, June 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The Thursday evening opening ceremonies at Eccles Coliseum kicked off with hundreds of young athletes filed into the stadium and walked around the track, which was surrounded by volunteers holding American flags. Local military veterans assisted with the unfurling of a giant flag at midfield, and audience members joined in for the national anthem. Leading the singing of the anthem were Ezekiel Andrew and Rob Riordan, who play Jim and Huck, respectively, in the upcoming Utah Shakespeare Festival production of “Big River.”

After the national anthem, Southern Utah University President Scott Wyatt took the stage and proclaimed, “Let the Games begin!”

“The Games here in Cedar City are a big deal,” official torchbearer and professional football player Miles Killebrew told Cedar City News shortly before he took the ceremonial lap around the track and lit the cauldron to herald the opening of the games.

Miles Killebrew receives torchbearing instructions during Utah Summer Games opening ceremonies, Cedar City, Utah, June 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“It’s big to have all the families out here celebrating,” he said, “and it just re-emphasizes the community is so strong here.”

Killebrew, a defensive safety who played college football for SUU before being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round in 2016, was seen playfully interacting with fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures before taking the torch lap.

Mindy Benson, SUU’s vice president of alumni and community relations, said they are thrilled to have Killebrew return to support both the university and the Utah Summer Games.

“Having Miles participate in the event really speaks to the athletic spirit of the games,” she said.

Steve Augeri, former lead vocalist for the rock group Journey, and his band members provided the musical entertainment for the evening, performing “Separate Ways” and various other popular hits.

Adding to the spectacle was the popular and energetic Utah Jazz mascot, Bear, who made his grand entrance via helicopter and zipline. He later propelled T-shirts into the crowd and delighted the crowd with his antics.

The event also featured a guest appearance by Gail Halvorsen, the famed “Candy Bomber” who dropped tons of chocolate to German children during the Berlin airlift operation of 1948-49.

Read more: Utah veteran delighted children as ‘The Candy Bomber,’ receives high honor

Participants watch as hundreds of small parachutes with candy attached are dropped from a helicopter during Utah Summer Games opening ceremonies, Cedar City, Utah, June 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The 97-year-old Halvorsen was driven around the track in a UTV as audience members stood and applauded. This was followed by a helicopter dropping hundreds of bags of candy and candy bars attached to small parachutes, where they were eagerly grabbed by the exuberant young athletes gathered at midfield.

Immediately after the cauldron lighting, the sky lit up with an impressive 20-minute fireworks display.

The 2018 Utah Summer Games continue through Saturday, June 23.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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