COLUMBIA – After traveling about 237 miles from Harrison, Ark., to Columbia to participate in last weekend's Missouri State Senior Games, all Freddie Walker wanted to do was play horseshoes.
Unfortunately, there was no one in her age group to play against in Friday's horseshoes event at Cosmopolitan Park, so she needed to travel to Hearnes Center to pick up her medal.
Walker wasn’t the only one to find relatively few competitors at the State Senior Games, but she said she understood why people would avoid the trip because of gas prices.
"If I get up to Hearnes Center, that's OK, I'll tell them. But for the price of gas, I'm not making the trip," Walker said. "Not worth it. I can go buy a medal for that price."
Participation in the 2011 games was down drastically from last year, according to many event volunteers. The official results and numbers have not been tallied yet, but there was a drop in attendance*, said Emily Lorenz, the Show-Me State Games media and marketing coordinator.
"We did hear from some past participants who said this year was lower," Lorenz said.
The fact that the Summer National Senior Games start June 16 in Houston could have been another factor in the drop in number of participants this year. In past years, the Missouri State Senior Games have also been a qualifying event for the national event.
"This year was not a qualifying year, so that may have played a role as well," Lorenz said.
Lorenz said the burden of traveling and participating in back-to-back weekend events might have kept some of the older athletes away.
Many said they were surprised by the low turnout.
"Columbia is usually one of our bigger events," said Karl Remick, who volunteered at the darts event this year. "Unfortunately, not this year."
"It is a little disappointing, but with the whole economy and everything, we totally understand," she said.