Wednesday, January 16, 2019
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20190102 GAO Bicycle Tour Herb DSC 0273Celebrating its 39th annual Golden Age Olympics, the city of McAllen invites anyone aged 50 and up to compete in a series of events that offer everything from bowling to bake-offs. The GAO started in 1983 with just three events. Today they offer approximately 30 different competitions.

The games, which run from Jan. 7 to Feb. 28, reflect the interests of the Rio Grande Valley’s growing Winter Texan community. “We have events all across the board, anything from card games, Poker, Cribbage, Hearts, to swimming,” explains Stephanie Valdez, who has been in charge of the Golden Age Olympics for the past two years.

With 1,729 individual participants registered in last year’s events and 4,406 people involved in its competitions, attendance for these winter games is impressive and, according to Valdez, always growing.

20190102 GAO Petanque Herb DSC 0242Valdez stresses that since the activities cover everything from birdwatching to shuffleboard, anyone, whether “mobile or not,” can definitely join in the fairs and festivities.

The games, which take place in parks and venues across the city, can be as educational as they are entertaining.

Valdez singles out “The Great Chase” as an example of an event that serves to introduce Valley visitors to the charms of the City of Palms. In the scavenger hunt-like game, teams made up of two men and two women are given clues that take them all around McAllen as they race to snap shots of the city. When they are done, “we go through all of their pictures to make sure that they have gone to the correct location and then they will get a medal as a team.” Participants enjoy “getting to learn the city a little more as they are driving through.”

The Bike Tour, which has three hundred registrants a year, serves as a recreational way to learn about the famous bird-life of the Valley. Participants in the tour bring their own bikes then form riding groups that travel around the path at Bentsen State Park and in the process, “they’ll actually get to experience some of the birds there and nature.”

Aside from the Bike Tour there is a team event called the “Bird-a-Thon” which is held at the McAllen Nature Center. Participants are given a piece of paper and asked to seek out and identify the birds on the list. “There are trails in the McAllen Nature Center and the team will go ahead and walk along the trails and describe what they’ve seen,” explains Valdez.

20190102 GAO Petanque Herb DSC 0243As McAllen’s Parks and Recreation Department is always looking for ways to improve its Golden Age Olympics, competitors are encouraged to voice their ideas and concerns at a wrap-up meeting that takes place a week after the awards ceremonies. “So that if there were any issues or they wanted to try something new, then we invite them to come sit with us at the table. We discuss any issues and we are always listening to our guests,” explains Valdez. Input from Canadian Winter Texans and visitors from Wisconsin has led to the introduction of the game of petanque and to some serious discussion regarding the amount of chips passed out during the poker tournaments.

Participants in past events, which run the gamut from horseshoes to sudoku, have expressed gratitude over the Golden Age games. “They really do love it; it keeps them active and this is something that they get to experience not only as an individual,” says Valdez, who is heartened by the positive responses to the events as well as the enthusiasm of the competitors.

“There are so many different participants with so many different views,” she says, adding, “and you get to see them returning and get to see them really excited because they have been practicing all year round for their billiards tournament or their shuffleboard tournament and they’re ready to win gold.”

Entry Fee
First event : $7 per person
All events thereafter: $5

Some events may require additional fees. Register at the Las Palmas Community Center at 1921 N. 25th, Lark Community Center at 2601 Lark, or Palm View Community Center at 3401 Jordan, in McAllen. Registration must be received one week prior to each event unless noted. Contact McAllen Parks and Rec at 956-681-3333 for full registration details.

For more information or to register online visit: https://www.mcallen.net/departments/parks/special-events/golden-age-olympics

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