POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - Dutchess County showed its support for the Special Olympics Winter Games Friday night, packing the auditorium at the mId-Hudson Civic Center for the Games' Opening Ceremonies.
Close to 1,000 athletes from nine regions across the state marched into the auditorium in Olympic procession style, and spectators filled the stands cheering their heroes every step of the way.
"These athletes honor us by being here," Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro told Daily Voice. "This is the second year Dutchess County is hosting the Special Olympics Winter Games, and the community has really embraced these athletes as family. And at the end of the day we are getting to witness great competition and great achievement... and at the end of it, our lives are being made better because of it.
"Thousands of Dutchess County residents are coming out to be fans in the stands," he added. "They've shown great support to the athletes. And I know that by witnessing and experiencing these games, they're going to have their lives changed by it."
"It's not about competition," Adrian 'Butch' Anderson said. "It's about gamesmanship, about having fun. These kids - a lot of them wouldn't have a chance if it wasn't for the Special Olympics. To be here and to watch the competition by these kids... it is fantastic. It gives you goosebumps. I'm so glad Dutchess is hosting them again - they're a great group of people and I hope they keep coming back every year."
Competition was set to include five different sports - floor hockey, figure skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and alpine skiing - contested at venues in Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties. Over 2,000 volunteers were signed up to help the Games run smoothly.