CARRABASSETT VALLEY — As if on cue, light snow started falling at noon Monday for the kickoff to the 50th Special Olympics Maine Winter Games at Sugarloaf.

The noon ceremonies included an enthusiastic welcome from volunteers and spectators for 59 statewide teams of athletes and their coaches.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott welcomed athletes to his home mountain.

He reminded the crowd of the Special Olympics motto: Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

“Most of all, have fun in the competitions,” he said.

Director of Public Relations Lisa Bird also welcomed local leaders and officials who help ensure the success of the event.

Chris Vachon, athlete with the Flying Eagles of Lewison, carried the Torch of Hope. He was accompanied by Kennebunk Police Officer Candice Simeoni and Norway Police Department School Resource Officer Christina Sugars.

Many of the nearly 400 athletes, their coaches and volunteers arrived Sunday for one of Maine’s largest community suppers held in the base lodge.

“I think this supper is a world record event,” Bird said. “It is a tremendous effort by the local community.”

Each year, residents of Carrabassett Valley and surrounding communities play host to athletes by bringing in casseroles and desserts from volunteer cooks. This year, the supper fed about 700 people, she said.

Sunday evening activities included hot chocolate, a sing-along, karaoke and outdoor skating, she added.

Among the volunteers at the resort’s Outdoor Center on Monday morning were members of the Maranacook Community High School Nordic ski team and Mt. Blue Campus National Honor Society.

“We have 22 Mt. Blue kids at the outdoor center cheering kids on and helping with timing,” said Sean Minear. “I’ve been the NHS adviser at Mt. Blue for 20-plus years and this is something we have consistently done. We have another 22 kids helping to put together lunches for the athletes.”

Nicole Caprara of Winthrop and Jeremy Whittaker of Augusta made sure everyone in attendance received a yellow and black scarf for the opening ceremonies.

“Community is something we both believe in and it is something our company, U.S. Cellular, supports,” said Caprara. “It’s a win-win for us.”

The hand-knit scarves were donated by in and out of state people, Bird said.

Enroute to the games Sunday, teams had the opportunity to stop at Roderick-Crosby American Legion Post and Auxiliary No. 28 in Farmington for lunch, Bird said.

During the three-day event, athletes compete in Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing, snowshoe, speed skating and dual ski. The competition runs through Tuesday morning and will conclude with closing ceremonies at noon.

In 1970, Special Olympics Maine held the world’s first Special Olympics Winter Games. It began on a small hill in Gorham with only a few athletes and a few volunteers.

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