40th annual Hilltown Junior Olympics to be held Saturday

  • A tug of war event from a previous year’s Junior Olympics. Hilltown Junior Olympics Facebook page—

For the Gazette
Published: 9/18/2019 11:35:51 PM

GOSHEN — Since 1979, children growing up in the Hilltowns have looked forward to the Hilltown Junior Olympics, which has been an important mainstay of these rural communities.

Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, more than 120 kids ages 4 to 14 years old will take over Tilton Field on Wing Hill Road in Goshen for competition in events ranging from bean bag and horseshoe toss to basketball shooting and tug-of-war; from the standing broad jump and shot put to 40- and 70-yard dashes and more, in individual and team events.

Participating towns are Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield, Windsor and Worthington, with each town having its own organizer.

“It is a fun day and a great way for kids to spend time and interact with kids from other towns and schools,” Chesterfield organizer Don Willard said. “It is not necessary to be an athlete because there is a place for anybody that wants to participate.”

There are five divisions for both girls and boys based on age.

According to organizer Denise Perkins, the event was created by Stan Szoboda, a Hilltown resident who hoped the children would experience the “Olympic dream” of competing just for the fun of it.

“It helps them understand that it is not just about winning, but being on a team, supporting others and having fun,” Perkins said.

Perkins, a lifetime resident of Cummington, said she began participating in the Hilltown Junior Olympics when she was 5 years old and continued to do so every year until she reached the age limit.

“I really loved it,” Perkins said. “I got to see my friends, and while we competed against each other we were also one team as a town.”

Carrying on the family tradition, Perkins’ 5-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son will be participating this year.

Willard said it takes more than 100 volunteers to make the event happen every year.

“We couldn’t do this without the volunteers,” Willard said. “These people are the most dedicated people I have ever seen, working all year for a one-day event.”

The Olympics was once a traveling venue that changed yearly, but Goshen has been the host town for the last five years. A different town is responsible for overseeing the event each year, however.

“The towns really support it,” Willard said. “The kids enter for free, and they get a free lunch and a free T-shirt.”

The Hilltown Junior Olympics used to draw double the number of children that it has had over the last few years. Willard said this may be due to a combination of factors including kids spending more time on online games or social media, as well as participation in specialized sports that require spending a lot of time in practice and traveling for games.

The closure of the Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington has also made it difficult to reach and encourage children in town to enter the event.

Just as the school served as the center of the town, the Hilltown Junior Olympics brings rural children and families together, forming connections and bonds across school playgrounds and town lines.

Due to the decreased participation, children from the seven towns will be merged into four teams this year.

Still, for those who attend, Perkins and Willard say, fun will be had, memories will be made, and the joy of goodhearted, supportive athletic competition will help boost confidence in self and a desire to lift up and encourage others.


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