Show-Me State Games return to mid-Missouri after COVID-19 hiatus

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune

A pillar on the Columbia calendar, the Show-Me State Games were one of many events canceled last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Following its 2020 hiatus, Friday marked the return of the event, with the 37th annual showcase holding its opening ceremony at Mizzou Arena.

Last year was the first time the Show-Me State Games didn't take place since the inception of the event in 1985. This summer, the Games are back in as full a form as possible, according to Dave Fox, executive director.

"I have an amazing team. Even last year, when we didn't host any events, we were able to stay engaged with our athletes," Fox told the Tribune on Friday. "We've got unbelievable networking and communication with our athletes across the state of Missouri and have for several years. We did some virtual events, just to be able to stay engaged with the hope of returning.

"We saw a little bit of that after the first of the year with some restrictions. And here we are."

The Show-Me State Games are a non-profit program of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health. The event is hosted by the University of Missouri.

The mission of the Games is to provide all Missourians the opportunity to participate in activities of "health, fitness, family and fun," per the organization's website, with competitors from nearly all 114 counties in the state.

Show-Me State Games happy to return after 2020 cancellation

Tom Weable, Shelter Insurance superintendent of supply and warehouse operations, carries the Show-Me State Games torch with fellow employees on Friday while arriving at corporate headquarters at 1817 W. Broadway.

The 2021 Games offer the same slate of sports offered in 2019, with the addition of cross country.

Fox doesn't expect participation this year will reach pre-pandemic numbers, as the showcase is being held in line with guidance from Boone County health officials.  

However, it's a world away from the number of participants last year — zero. 

"Seeing our athletes back engaged in the activity of health, fitness, family and fun, no doubt," Fox said of what he's most looking forward to with the relaunch of the Games. "And our mission is so unique. There are no prerequisites or tryouts. We're open to anybody in a multitude of sports through the Show-Me State Games.

"Just to be able to see those who have showcased their talents, the successes, sometimes the failures, but just to be able after two years to reengage in an activity they love, that's really what it's all about for us and we're super excited about it."

For Fox and his team, the job won't be over until the end of the final competition July 25.

As the first events were scheduled to get underway Friday morning, rain disrupted tennis and baseball.

Eventually, the delay ended. Basketball games got started, too. 

"I won't get comfortable and relaxed until a week from Sunday when I know that we've been able to get through both weekends in a safe and efficient way," Fox said. 

Don't have your COVID vaccine? You can get one at Show-Me State Games

Alise Widmer, a registered nurse, fills a syringe with the Pfizer vaccine during a clinic at the African American Youth Harvest Foundation on April 17, 2021.

The effect of the pandemic on the Games remains present during this year's showcase. 

Fox said there will be eight vaccination clinics held on site — four each weekend — to encourage those who haven't gotten their COVID-19 vaccine to do so while watching or participating in the showcase. 

"It's something we're excited to be a part of and hopefully a part of the solution with what's going on," Fox said.

No matter how the competitions returned, it's another sign of normalcy for Boone County and those who've enjoyed the Show-Me State Games each year.

"We're just happy to be back and have the opportunity," Fox said. "It looks like the weather's going to cooperate, and hopefully we'll have a safe and productive weekend."

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.