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Participants in city have a day to shine

OBSERVER Photos by M.J. Stafford Special Olympics athletes march in a parade before competing in Dunkirk Wednesday.

The Special Olympics held its annual northern Chautauqua County track and field events at Dunkirk Junior-Senior High School Wednesday afternoon.

The athletes paraded around the Dunkirk Middle School block before the opening ceremony at Karl Hoeppner Field.

Hundreds of Dunkirk school district students and employees lined the streets to cheer the parade on. Many held encouraging signs. The parading athletes were led by Dunkirk’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and vehicles from the city fire and police departments. Party music pumped from a truck, adding to the festive atmosphere.

The Special Olympics event used to be held at SUNY Fredonia but after it got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it found a new home in Dunkirk last year.

Mayor Wilfred Rosas offered brief remarks at the opening ceremony. “My message to the families and especially the athletes is very simple: Today is your day. Get out, compete and have fun,” he said.

Dunkirk’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps leads a parade of Special Olympics athletes Wednesday.

Each of the athletes was introduced individually, running a hand-slap line composed of student council and National Honor Society members.

Victorious athletes will have the opportunity to move on in the statewide Special Olympics competition. The top athletes nationally will go to the 2022 Special Olympics in Orlando, Fla., set for June 5-12.

At Dunkirk’s event Wednesday, there was a moment of silence held for the victims of the latest mass shooting in the United States. An 18-year-old man murdered 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday before being killed by law enforcement officers.

Special Olympics athletes pose for a group photo at Karl Hoeppner Field in Dunkirk Wednesday.

Dunkirk school district students and employees cheer on a parade of Special Olympics athletes Wednesday.

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