In 1969, Special Olympics Maine held the world’s first winter games. It began on a small hill in Gorham, with only a handful of people. This year, Special Olympics Maine will send more than 400 athletes to Sugarloaf on Sunday through Tuesday, Jan. 29-31, for the 43rd annual Special Olympics Maine Winter Games.

The games will include 415 athletes from 72 teams.

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

The competition will be begin Monday morning, and the opening ceremonies, featuring the parade of athletes, will begin at noon. That evening athletes will be treated to a torchlight parade, fireworks and victory dance.

En route to Sugarloaf, Special Olympic teams will have the opportunity to take a break 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.

During the three-day games, athletes will compete in Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing, snowshoe, speed skating and dual ski.

Special Olympics is a year-round athletic training and competition program for persons with intellectual disabilities of all ages. In Maine, there are more than 3,400 athletes involved in the program.

Competitions will run through Tuesday morning and conclude with the closing ceremonies at noon Jan. 31.

For more information, call 879-0489 or email Lisa Bird at lisab@somaine.org.

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