In 1969, Special Olympics Maine held its first Winter Games on a small hill in Gorham with only a handful of people in attendance.

In 2011, Special Olympics Maine will send nearly 500 athletes from 64 teams to Sugarloaf USA for the 42nd annual Special Olympics Maine Winter Games. The event will take place Sunday through Tuesday, Jan. 30 through Feb. 1.

The events will begin the night of Jan. 30 with one of Maine’s largest community suppers. Citizens of Carrabassett and surrounding areas will host the athletes by bringing in casseroles and desserts and serving more than 800 people. The evening activities kick off with outdoor skating and hot chocolate, a sing-a-long and karaoke.

The competition will start bright and early Jan. 31 and the opening ceremonies will feature a parade of athletes at noon.That evening, athletes will be treated to a torchlight parade, fireworks and victory dance.

During the three-day event, athletes will compete in Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing, snowshoe, speed skating and dual-ski. Competitions will run through the morning of Feb. 1 and will conclude with closing ceremonies at noon.

Special Olympics is a year-round athletic training and competition program for persons, of all ages, with intellectual disabilities. In Maine, there are more than 3,200 athletes involved in the program.

En route to Sugarloaf, Special Olympic teams will have the opportunity to take a break and stretch their legs at a rest stop courtesy of the Roderick-Crosby Post and Auxiliary #28 of Farmington. Hot chocolate and cookies will be provided to the athletes.

For more information on Special Olympics Maine or the State Winter Games, call the state office at 879-0489 or e-mail Lisa Bird at lisab@somaine.org.

VillageSoup sports staff can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at sports@villagesoup.com.