COLUMBIA — The atmosphere inside the Holiday Inn Expo center Saturday afternoon was like a carnival, filled with colorful balloons, clowns, games and the sound of the "Macarena" flowing from the speakers.
This was Victory Village, part of the Special Olympics Missouri's State Outdoor Championships, which Columbia is hosting this weekend.
"It's an opportunity for athletes to have something fun to do in between competitions," Diannah White, chief communications officer for Special Olympics Missouri, said.
Popcorn and snow cones were served, and athletes were welcome to enjoy the many activities offered such as sand art, necklace making, nail painting, ladder ball, a prize walk and visiting with Miss Missouri International 2008, St. Louis' Jayna Altman.
Amanda Bjorklund, 27, whose nails had just been painted pink with white dots by one of the volunteers, said she was looking forward to the dance later that night. She received a gold medal on Friday in the Unified Golf competition, winning by one stroke, she said.
Athletic events included softball, tennis and golf, with several categories of play in each sport. When the events for the second day ended, athletes spent time in the afternoon swimming at the Activity and Recreation Center, playing games at Victory Village and resting up for the evening's bingo game and dance.
Like all Olympic events, this year's outdoor championship kicked off with a traditional torch ceremony. Current hall of famer Shirlene Treadwell, 39, who helped carry the torch this weekend, won two gold medals in tennis and a silver medal in golf on Friday. She said her favorite sport was golf, and her favorite thing about the weekend was competing in the sports and meeting friends.
Around 700 athletes and coaches and 500 volunteers came together for the outdoor championships this weekend. Ronnie Roberts, 29, and Michelle Cress, 40, of the St. Joseph Rockets competed in two softball games, claiming gold in both.
"I love coming to these kind of things," said Roberts.
Cress said her favorite part of the weekend was "playing ball and being champs, (and) showing good sportsmanship to the other players."
After winning prizes in the prize walk, both said they were looking forward to having a good time with friends.
"We won't see our friends again until next year," said Cress.