Senior Games offers something for everyone

Justin Miller TimesNewspapers

For fans, contestants and organizers alike, the Senior Games and Fine Arts Festival is a welcome sight in central Illinois every spring.

“The Heart of Illinois Senior Games and the Arts is in its 13th year,” event coordinator Janelle Clark said. “In January of 1999, Frank Hubbell contacted the Illinois State Senior Olympic Board and expressed an interest in starting the games in the Peoria area.”

Hubbell was then put in touch with Vic Durchholz of Peoria and Jim and Kay Allen of Morton, all of whom had participated in senior games going back to the early 1990s.

“Three months later, the steering committee made up of (those) members began meeting to assess the feasibility of having a Peoria Senior Games,” Clark said. “The committee started to plan the events, find facilities and seek funds and publicity.”

First to get on board were the Peoria YMCA and the Peoria Park District.

“In November 1999, the Heart of Illinois Senior Games was officially organized and a board was established,” Clark said. “The first (senior games) program was held in May 2000 with 283 participants, 75 events and 120 volunteers.

“The games (were) started to recognize excellence in fitness but also to acknowledge the creativity and spirit of those 50 and older.”

Since the inception, the games have evolved to include more of everything.

“Over the years the games have added events and participants,” Clark said. “In 2012, the games had grown to over 600 participants, 100 events and 200 volunteers. While there are events throughout the community, an effort was made to offer many of the event sin one location, the RiverPlex.”

Events include bowling, tennis, shuffleboard, billiards, cycling, clay shooting, pickleball, softball, golf, horseshoes, basketball, table tennis, soccer kicks, football throws and more.

“The games truly offer something for everyone,” Clark said. “The goal of the games is to encourage and promote an active lifestyle and nurture a spirit of camaraderie by providing a variety of athletic, art and social events.”

While the majority of the events are at the RiverPlex, located at 600 Water St. in Peoria, several events are spread throughout the central Illinois community.

“I think this event is what community is all about,” Clark said. “A group of people coming together to showcase their talents while encouraging and supporting others.”

Bowling is at Plaza Lanes, located at 1500 Washington Road in Washington; tennis and shuffleboard at 2218 Prospect Road in Peoria; billiards at the Fondulac Administration Building, located at 201 Veterans Drive in East Peoria; cycling at Jubilee College State Park at 13921 U.S. Route 150, Brimfield and clay shooting at the Oak Ridge Sportsmen’s Club at 12001 Weishaupt Road in Mackinaw.

“I love the people,” Clark said. “The athletes, artists, volunteers and sponsors all really want to be part of the event. We have such a good time. It’s really about the spirit and camaraderie.”

While the games are associated with the Senior Olympics, Clark said many contestants compete in both.

“The Heart of Illinois Senior Games is a non-profit organization associated with the Illinois Senior Olympic State Organization and the National Senior Games,” Clark said. “While it is not a national qualifier, many participants use our games as a warm-up for the Illinois Senior Olympic State Games held each summer in Springfield.”

The games will be held from May 22-26. To volunteer or for more information, contact Clark at 681-2860 or at jclark@peoriaparks.org.

“We are looking for athletes, artists, volunteers and people that like to have a good time,” Clark said. “There truly is something for everyone.”

 For a list of times or to download a registration form, visit www.hoiseniorgames.org.

Registration is open until May 17 and registration brochures can also be picked up at the Peoria Park district, Morton Park District, Pekin Miller Center, Fondulac Park District or Washington Park District.

“The event brings out the best in people,” Clark said. “It’s all smiles. The participants get to showcase their talents while encouraging and cheering on others all while having a really good time.”