LAKE PLACID - The Empire State Winter Games are ready to roll.
After New York state cut funding to the annual winter event, local municipalities and organizations successfully formed a coalition to keep the games alive.
"It's great that we kept the streak from being interrupted," said Sandy Caligiore, spokesman for the Empire State Winter Games. "Everything is pretty much in order. We're all ready to go."
Opening ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, and the games will continue through Sunday with young athletes competing in a long list of winter sports such as hockey, figure skating, sliding sports, skiing, snowboarding, speed skating, ski jumping and snowshoeing.
After a full schedule of competition Friday, the opening ceremony will include a parade of athletes lining up on the ice of the Herb Brooks 1980 Arena, followed by a speech by Andrew Weibrecht, the Lake Placid native who won the 2010 Olympic bronze medal in super-G alpine skiing.
"It's a wonderful time to hear his story," Caligiore said. "It's a real-life story - not just a story about athletics - from his time growing up in Lake Placid to moving up in the ranks, dealing with injuries and eventually making it to the podium."
The opening ceremony will continue with a concert by Barefoot Truth. The roots-rock band, based in New England, calls itself "the biggest band you've probably never heard of," mixing sounds of folk, rock, jazz and reggae with optimistic lyrics.
"Our music is based in positive thinking," Garrett Duffy, the band's harmonica player, said during an interview in June. "We're all such good friends that we have a great time on stage together, and it comes out in the music."
For those who can't attend Friday's Opening Ceremony in person, the event will be streamed live on www.empirestatewintergames.com.
Saturday will have winter sports throughout the day. Caligiore said it's a great opportunity for spectators to watch amateur athletes compete.
All competitions are free to attend.
"I can't emphasize enough how much we'd like to see our local population come out and enjoy the events throughout the weekend," said James McKenna, CEO of the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau and chair of LPEC Quality Destination Inc., an arm of the Visitors Bureau that is fiscally responsible for the Empire State Winter Games.
"This is a great opportunity, not just for Lake Placid but for the entire region," McKenna said. "It puts this area in a real positive light. We're getting away from calling this a Lake Placid event and moving toward the Adirondacks as a whole, and we hope that will help to generate spectators."
The competition draws in athletes of many different ages and skill levels who often move on to higher level competitions and in some cases turn up in the Winter Olympics.
"There's been a big lift in many sports of athletes who pass through the Empire State Games onto other greatness," Caligiore said.
Festival of the Games
The Festival of the Games will be held at the Mirror Lake Public Beach beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Fire pits, inflatable toys and other children's activities will be set up prior to a welcome from local dignitaries and another concert played by Barefoot Truth at 5 p.m.
"They're just a great regional band that everyone seems to enjoy," said Dennis Ryan, an organizer of the event.
The band will take a break after a 45-minute set, and athletes will march onto the public beach area at 6 p.m. as a special guest sings the national anthem. Several dignitaries will make brief speeches before Barefoot Truth returns to the stage for a final set.
Ryan said he was thankful that the weather seems to be cooperating.
"We've been watching it closely," he said. "It sounds like we may get a little snow on Friday, and then hopefully Saturday will be a beautiful Adirondack day."
And as with most events in the Olympic Village, those attending can expect fireworks to conclude the event.
"We're all focused as a laser beam on giving everyone the best possible event we can," Ryan said. "There's just so much going on behind the scenes right now it's incredible."
For more information on the Empire State Winter Games or the Festival of the Games visit empirestatewintergames.com, or call the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau at 518-523-2445.