Over 1400 athletes, coaches and partners arrived on campus to participate in the annual Special Olympics Fall Festival on Nov. 2-4. Athletes participated in six events: bocce, long distance running and walking, powerlifting, roller-skating, soccer and volleyball.
The student-organized Fall Festival is the largest student-run event in the world, and the second largest Special Olympics of Pennsylvania annual event. The three-day festival was the culmination of months of hard work by the 95-student committee that was led by Festival director and senior student, Dan Connell.
“Fall Festival 2012 was an outstanding success—and that review comes directly from the athletes, coaches and volunteers that descended on Villanova this past weekend,” Connell said.
The festival officially began on Friday, Nov. 2, in the Pavilion with the Opening Ceremony, an event that included several motivational speeches, special guests and the crucial lighting of the torch to signify the start of competition. The torch made its way to the University from the Philadelphia Art Museum as part of the five-leg, 13-mile Torch Run, which included hundreds of law enforcement officials and Special Olympics supporters.
Fall Festival is a part of the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, an organization that provides competition and team settings in 22 sports for over 20,000 individuals with intellectual or related developmental disabilities. Athletes can formally participate at eight years of age and represent a particular county within the Delaware Valley region.
“Our campus comes alive to welcome the hardest working and most deserving athletes across the state to a weekend-long event centered around celebrating the athletes’ abilities and making sure they have an awesome and unforgettable weekend at Villanova,” said Brendan Cummings, director of support services.
The 24th annual Fall Festival was completely staffed and managed by volunteers who served a multitude of roles including cheerleaders, athlete liaisons, administrators and medical staff. This year, volunteer participation from students, faculty and community members totaled almost 3,000 people, demonstrating the importance of serving in University life.
“We were very pleased to have seen increased support and participation from the Villanova student body and student groups,” Connell said.
The weekend is truly an event, and along with the organized team competitions, the committee worked hard to ensure that there was also a high level of entertainment and fun. The boy band duo “Diverse” performed at the Oreo on Saturday afternoon, igniting enthusiasm and dancing along the way.
The weekend also showcased the Fall Festival tradition—Olympic Town—and the entertainment did not disappoint. Dozens of student organizations coordinated booths with activities ranging from crafts, to autographs from the football team to karaoke. Volunteer organizations also played an important role, and the famed Star Wars characters made their traditional appearance.
“The incredible enthusiasm of the University community is what makes Villanova Fall Festival the memorable completion that it is year in and year out,” Cummings said.
The Fall Festival also incorporated several new initiatives that were well-received and that will become permanent fixtures next year adding to the already incredible experience.
“I know our younger members [on committee] look forward to continuing the foundation we set this year when they set out to prepare for the 25th anniversary next year,” Connell said. “They will certainly do it big!”