Madison O'Neill, 15, from Pennsylvania’s Hershey Harrisburg Region, might embody all three this summer. Six years ago, she could barely walk without pain. The third grader, an aspiring field hockey player, suffered from a joint disorder in both knees. Several years later, after surgery and months of physical therapy, she found herself not just playing field hockey, but trying out for the Metro Philadelphia-based all-star team competing in the 2012 Keystone State Games, hosted in her own region.
This year, the Keystone State Games get even more exciting for amateur adult athletes and teens like Madison, as the annual Pennsylvania Festival of Sports becomes part of the 2013 State Games of America, produced biennially by the National Congress of State Games.
Medalists from 31 state games throughout the country will convene July 31 through August 4 for this Olympic-style event with sports of all sorts taking place at premier venues throughout the region.
The State and National Games running simultaneously create a highly charged atmosphere with 10,000 competitors, from top-ranked athletes hoping to be recruited by colleges or national teams, to those who simply enjoy improving their skills and socializing with fellow athletes. Spectators can see a spectrum of athletes aged 5 to 95 competing in more than 25 sports from archery, swimming and lacrosse, to wrestling, fencing and judo.
Spectators hungry for fanfare will also enjoy the pageantry of the Opening Ceremonies and the parade of athletes proudly displaying their state’s flags to music they have selected. Past ceremonies have welcomed former Olympians including Jackie Joyner Kersey and Michelle Kwan, who helped to light the official torches for the Games.
Madison and her teammates, including sister Hallie, will get a shot at redemption this year despite ranking seventh in the 2012 Keystone State Games because all athletes from the host state are eligible to compete. Those competing from other states, however, must have earned their medals within the previous year at their own State Games.
Those attending the Games will find themselves in the most visited area of Pennsylvania known as Dutch Country Roads. By extending their stay beyond the event, visitors can experience Hershey's® Chocolate World® and the many unique attractions throughout the town known as The Sweetest Place On Earth®. They can take a tour of the beautiful Capitol Complex, explore Restaurant Row in the heart of Harrisburg and learn about the culture and traditions of the Dutch Amish communities as they shop for handcrafted furniture and quilts in the Lancaster countryside. History lovers can stroll on the National Civil War Battlefields and discover the vast apple orchards surrounding Gettysburg and enthusiasts are invited to go hog-wild at the Harley-Davidson plant and tasty snack-factory tours in York.
Check out stategames2013.com for event schedules and more.
For more information about the area, please contact the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau.