State Games of America Opening Ceremony



Eric Engelbarts: W: (616) 233-3563, C: (616) 826-4385,

Kim Skeltis, APR: (616) 419-8385,

Amy LeFebre: W: (616) 726-7800, C: (616) 450-4292,    


Event Features Parade of 12K Athletes, National Trampoline Act, Cauldron Lighting and Laser Light Show

Grand Rapids, Mich., July 11, 2017 – In less than 30 days, West Michigan will host the 2017 State Games of America (Aug. 3-6) for the first time in Michigan, welcoming 12,000 athletes from 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada plus 25,000 attendees. The 60-event, 48-sport festival will begin in true Olympic fashion with an Opening Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4 at Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St. in Grand Rapids. The ticketed event is open to the public and is expected to sell out.

“This Opening Ceremony will be like nothing hosted in Grand Rapids before,” said Eric Engelbarts, event director of the 2017 State Games of America. “Ticket holders will be treated to Olympic-style fanfare, from the impressive Parade of Athletes to a nationally-renowned trampoline act. We urge people to buy tickets now before it sells out.”

Spectators also can enjoy the free Athlete Village in Rosa Parks Circle beforehand from 2 to 7 p.m.


Olympic-Style Opening Ceremony Embodies State Games Spirit

Similar to the tradition at the Olympic Games, the Opening Ceremony of the State Games of America begins with the Parade of Athletes – a spectacle featuring all 12,000 athletes entering Van Andel Arena in order by state, with commentary by local broadcasters Bret Bakita and Kevin Richards. Leading the parade will be Grand Marshal Greg Meyer, Grand Rapids resident and the last American male runner to win the Boston Marathon prior to 2014 (1983). Other Opening Ceremony highlights include:

  • Tribute to Michigan State Police – In honor of the Michigan State Police’s 100th anniversary, police motorcycles will lead the Parade of Athletes, and Michigan State Police will hold the American flag during the national anthem as well as administer the Oath of Athletes.

  • National Anthem Performance – The Pearson family of Grand Rapids will perform, featuring Scotty and Lafoya Pearson and their six children ranging in age from 6 to 17 years old.

  • Olympian Recognition – Nine Michigan Olympians will attend, including Cheryl Angelelli of Clinton Township (Paralympic swimmer; Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008), Andrew Bremer of Grand Rapids (Paralympic soccer player; Rio 2016), Alfred Jones of  Southfield (Olympic boxer; Mexico City 1968), Pam Kruse of Grand Rapids (Olympic swimmer; Mexico City 1968), John Kusko of Commerce Township (Paralympic goalball player; Rio 2016), Fred Lowe of Dewitt (Olympic weightlifter; Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972, Montreal 1976), Lou Scott of Detroit (Olympic distance runner; Mexico City 1968), Brian Sheridan of Clarkston (Paralympic cyclist; Rio 2016) and Mackenzie Woodring of Lowell (Olympic cyclist; Beijing 2008, Rio 2016).

  • Skyriders! High Flying Trampoline Show – Guinness World Record holder and three-time national trampoline champion Ken Kovach and his team of acrobats will perform high-flying and daring stunts. With more than 20 years of experience entertaining worldwide audiences, the team has performed at halftime shows for every NBA team plus at the 2015 NBA Finals.

  • Oath of Athletes – University of Detroit Jesuit high school senior Sean English of Northville will lead the oath on behalf of the athletes. A runner on U-D Jesuit's track team, he was struck by a car in April while helping an overturned SUV on I-96 and had his right leg amputated below the knee. Michigan State Trooper Patrick Arena, who made a tourniquet at the crash site and saved English’s life, will administer the oath. Arena is stationed at the Michigan State Police Metro South Post in Taylor.

  • Lighting the Cauldron / Laser Light Show – An athlete yet to be named will light the cauldron at the center of Van Andel to officially open the State Games of America. A second torch will be lit and carried by Treney Tweedy, vice mayor of Lynchburg, Va., home of the 2019 State Games of America. A laser light show will conclude the evening.

“This event embodies the spirit of State Games events across America – welcoming all ages and all abilities from across the country and Canada,” said Engelbarts. “We are celebrating the sportsmanship and team spirit of athletics, and we invite all Michigan residents to enjoy this evening and the rest of the weekend festivities.”

Tickets to the Opening Ceremony are $5 for athletes and $15 for spectators if purchased online in advance, or $10 for athletes and $20 for spectators for on-site admission the day of the event (if available). Children under 2 years old are free if sitting on someone’s lap. Tickets can be purchased at Planners anticipate the event to sell out and encourage interested attendees to order tickets online in advance.

MEDIA COVERAGE NOTE: A designated media viewing platform will be available for media wishing to cover the Opening Ceremony. Journalists should RSVP to Kim Skeltis at or 616.419.8385, and a media credential can be picked up at DeVos Place starting Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Volunteer Check-In area or at the admission area of Van Andel Arena up to 30 minutes prior to the Opening Ceremony starting. The media credential also allows coverage access to all State Games of America events throughout the weekend.


Athlete Village Offers Free Fun at Rosa Parks Circle

In addition to the Opening Ceremony, spectators can enjoy Athlete Village at Rosa Parks Circle Friday, Aug. 4 from 2 to 7 p.m., featuring a live broadcast from 105.3 Hot FM; food trucks; a photo booth; and games including 4D virtual reality, foot darts and double-shot basketball. Athlete Village is free and open to the public with no reservations necessary. More information can be found at


Other Ways to Participate in State Games of America

There are many ways to participate in the State Games of America:

  • Compete as an athlete – All Michigan residents are eligible to compete without prequalifying in a State Games event. See registration information for each sport at, noting online registration ends Aug. 1 for most events.
  • Watch an event – A $10 Spectator Event Pass provides access to special events (except the Opening Ceremony) and all sports venues, and a $20 Super Pass includes the above plus one spectator Opening Ceremony ticket, one athlete Opening Ceremony ticket and discounts at participating restaurants. Super Pass sales end Aug. 1, after which individual event ticket sales can be purchased on site at varying prices per event (see individual sports pages for details). Children under the age of 3 are free. Visit for ticket information.
  • Volunteer – Approximately 1,000 volunteers are needed to support the State Games of America. Visit for information.
  • Sponsor Sponsorship opportunities are still available - contact Eric Engelbarts at more information.


About the 2017 State Games of America

The State Games of America is a biennial Olympic-style event featuring competition between State Games medal winners from the 30 states that conduct State Games events. The 2017 State Games of America operates in place of the annual Meijer State Games of Michigan - Summer Games.  The West Michigan Sports Commission, Experience Grand Rapids and Meijer State Games of Michigan partnered to bid on and host the 2017 State Games of America, beating San Diego; Lincoln, Neb. and Hampton Roads, Va. Grand Rapids is the first Michigan city to host a State Games of America.

The 2017 State Games of America is expected to draw 12,000 athletes (4,000 from out of state) and 25,000 attendees, filling 5,500 hotel rooms at 30 partner hotels from Kalamazoo to Big Rapids and generating $10 million in estimated economic impact. The State Games of America features 48 sports in 60 events at 35 venues across West Michigan.


About the West Michigan Sports Commission

The West Michigan Sports Commission, a non-profit 501 (c) (3), works to identify, secure and host a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to make a positive impact on the region’s economy and quality of life. Celebrating 10 years since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 600 sporting events and tournaments that attracted more than 900,000 athletes and visitors, generating $260 million in direct visitor spending. For more information, visit

About the National Congress of State Games/State Games of America

The National Congress of State Games (NCSG) is a membership organization comprised of 30 State Games organizations and a member of the United States Olympic Committee's Multi Sport Organizational Council. The NCSG is the rights holder of the State Games of America, an Olympic-style event featuring competition between State Games medal winners (gold, silver, bronze) from across the nation. The mission of the NCSG is to support State Games member organizations in the promotion of health, fitness and character building through Olympic-style competitions and physical activities. For more information, visit

About the Meijer State Games of Michigan

Modeled after the Olympics, the Meijer State Games of Michigan welcomes athletes regardless of age or ability level and embodies the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living among residents of Michigan. A signature event of the West Michigan Sports Commission, the Meijer State Games of Michigan is a grassroots organization that relies on the dedication of thousands of volunteers and the support of corporate partners. The 2017 State Games of America will take place instead of the 2017 State Games of Michigan - Summer Games. For more information, visit

Media Contacts

West Michigan Sports Commission:

Katy Tigchelaar

Kim Skeltis, Blue Blaze PR

Meijer State Games of Michigan:

Eric Engelbarts, II

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