The ancient Olympic Games originated as an athletic dedication to the Greek gods. The Whitefish Summer Games originated as a multi-sport jamboree dedicated to fun.
The first weekend in the fall of 1981 came alive with two days of activities spread across the community. There were soccer matches and games of volleyball, tennis and softball. There were sailboat races and horseshoe throwing contests. Even beer chugging and arm wrestling competitions.
The spirit of the Summer Games was bright. But the weather was not. After the second and third years were almost completely canceled due to heavy snowfall and rain, the lineup of sports shrunk to just soccer, which remains the lone annual event.
Now, three decades after Mother Nature sullied the festivities, the Whitefish Summer Games are back in full.
Longtime residents Colin Sellwood and his wife Teri, who both took part in the original Games, have rallied community members and businesses and restored a list of competitions.
More than 20 events are slated for the revived Summer Games on the weekend of Sept. 7-8. Along with the annual men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, the upcoming Summer Games will include a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, ice hockey and lacrosse matches, stand-up paddleboarding races, cribbage, poker and pool contests and more. One addition, dubbed Glacier Cowboy Mounted Shooters, will test horseback riders’ ability to shoot balloons with a gun loaded with black powder. Other events harken back to the early Games and its unique design.
“I’ve been surprised at the interest and enthusiasm that people around town have for it. I think they have a lot of good memories of the original concept,” Colin Sellwood said last week. “People have been very receptive.”
The Sellwoods are still accepting registration to participate in events or even host an event. He hopes to find more businesses that are interested in organizing sports like rugby or others.
“The more fun the better,” he said. “They’re all welcome with a smile.”
The original idea behind the Summer Games was simple: the tourist season quiets down after Labor Day, so why not organize a fun yet competitive event that excites locals and attracts visitors?
Previous attempts have been made to revive the entire Summer Games, but only the soccer tournament has endured year after year.
Sellwood organized the Games’ soccer events over the past 30-plus years until handing it over to O’Brien Byrd and the Flathead Rapids last year. While enjoying retirement, the Sellwoods hatched a plan to try to breathe life back into the entire sporting circus.
“I was a little nervous because you never know of course,” he said.
The Sellwoods began pitching the idea around town earlier this year and have been holding meetings at the Great Northern Bar and Grill every two weeks. The next meeting is Friday, Aug. 9 at 12:30 p.m. on the patio.
Pretty quickly, they realized they were not the only ones supportive of the Summer Games, and businesses and residents began jumping onboard.
“Like many things it’s hard to keep things rolling, but it’s great to see that they’ve resurrected the Games,” said Jan Metzmaker, director of the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, who also was involved in the original Summer Games.
“It was a great event. There’s a lot of interest and it used to bring a lot of people to town. It’s a good thing.”
For more information about the Whitefish Summer Games contact Colin Sellwood at 897-1008. A new website is being established and should be online soon, at http://www.wfsummergames.com.
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