FARGO — Fist bumps were the "in thing" in downtown Fargo Thursday night, June 6, as 670 Special Olympians arrived in the city for a parade down Broadway and a welcoming ceremony in the Civic Center.
The athletes, who were led by North Dakota State University student athletes and given a hearty welcome by residents and dignitaries who lined the streets, are in the city through Saturday, June 8, to compete in the 2019 Summer Games.
Holly Scheetz of Mandan said as the parade started that she was feeling, well, "hot" as the temperature climbed to about 90 degrees in the early evening sun.
However, she said she planned to cool down in the water on Friday in the Davies High School swimming pool as she was going to compete in three events — freestyle, back stroke and relay.
Asked if she planned to win, her answer was she figured she would be on the medals stand. It was her first year in the Fargo event that has been here since 1997 although she has competed in the Special Olympics basketball tourney in Minot several times.
One of her teammates, Brian Ricker, will compete in the track and field events Saturday at the Fargo South track. He will compete in the relay, long jump and 200-meter race.
It was his fourth or fifth time in Fargo, he said, and he said, "I like coming here."
As the athletes and volunteers paraded down Broadway to the opening ceremonies at the Civic Center, they were greeted by residents wearing "Fans in the Stands" T-shirts and giving fist bumps to the athletes from 13 North Dakota communities, including Belcourt, Bismarck, Bottineau, Dickinson, Fargo, Grafton, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Mandan, Minot, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Valley City and Wahpeton.
Dignitaries were also giving fist bumps to the athletes along the parade route, including Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner, Police Chief David Todd and North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger.
The parade was led by a group of law enforcement officers and others who ran more than a mile before leading the parade with the Special Olympics torch.
Jacob Radebaugh was one of the 30 runners. He said his mother works for the police department and he volunteered to "become more involved in my community."
At the Civic Center, the athletes found more cheering fans, with some also offering fist bumps, including cheerleaders for West Fargo High School and the Fargo Invaders, the city's semi-pro football team.
Erin Bertel, one of the Invaders cheerleaders, said the team was invited last year and the Special Olympians really enjoyed working with the team. So she said they wanted to build on that relationship by bringing the cheering squad this year.
Among the NDSU athletes escorting the Special Olympians into the Civic Center were Tyson Ward, Jordan Horn and Chris Quayle of the university's NCAA basketball tourney team.
In all, about 600 volunteers were expected to help with the event, said Kathleen Meagher, president and CEO of the state Special Olympics organization.
She said they were hoping for more "Fans in the Stands" for this year's events as the athletes really appreciate the support — and the fist bumps.