PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With this year’s U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Cross Country Junior Olympics less than a week away, organizers are completing plans for the opening and closing ceremonies.
The competition is scheduled March 7-13 at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle.
Planners said recently that the pageantry of the ceremonies would be more spectacular and memorable thanks to the sponsorship of local businesses.
A series of races will be held throughout the week, and the race trails at the Nordic Heritage Center have been redesigned and widened in anticipation of the Junior Olympics. About 1,000 people are expected to come to Aroostook County for the Nordic ski event, the first time it has been held here. The Junior Olympics last was held in the state at Black Mountain in Rumford in 1996.
Similar to the traditional Olympic games, the event will feature opening ceremonies at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, when more than 300 athletes will parade into Gentile Hall with their teams. Numerous activities are planned during the ceremony, which begins at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 7.
Major sponsorship for the opening ceremony will come from Maine Mutual Group, an insurance company that bestowed a $7,500 donation on organizers to support the ceremony.
It was an easy decision, said Larry Shaw, MMG president and chief executive officer.
“The Junior Olympics committee has done a fine job in its preparations, and we feel fortunate to play a part,” he said. “Not only are the Junior Olympics important as yet another example of northern Maine’s ability to host world-class events, MMG is appreciative of the economic and cultural impacts that the committee’s hard work will contribute to our area.”
A committee co-chaired by Jason Parent and Kim Jones has been hard at work planning the events that surround the races, including the opening and closing ceremonies. Parent said visitors to the area would be exposed to the best in Maine hospitality, culture, food and fun.
Although planners are divulging little information about the opening ceremony, they hinted that it would bring the diverse cultures of Aroostook County alive through “song, dance and vivid imagery.”
The closing ceremony will be held 6 p.m. Saturday, March 13, when awards and honors will be handed out in the gymnasium at Northern Maine Community College. As part of the closing ceremony, a dinner will showcase an array of Aroostook County and Maine food, including locally grown potatoes and Maine coast chow-der. Houlton Farms Dairy Ice Cream and blueberries are planned for dessert. Parent said the dining staff expects to feed more than 800 people that night.
Planners have announced that Katahdin Trust Co. has posted $10,000 to sponsor the ceremony.
“We join with the local communities in welcoming the athletes, coaches and support personnel, as well as the guests from across the nation who will soon discover the spirit, natural beauty and friendliness of our area,” said Jon J. Prescott, Katahdin Trust Co. president and CEO.
Tim Doak, the event director, said organizers couldn’t afford to host the ceremonies without the help of sponsors.
“We rely on the generosity of businesses like MMG and Katahdin to help us showcase our area to the more than 700 visitors that will come to Presque Isle for this event,” he said.
For information on the event, go to www.juniorolympics2010.org.