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Why State Games aren’t just for July anymore

BILLINGS — The majority of Big Sky State Games open July 20, but not all of them.

Now, more than ever, BSSG is sprinkling in events throughout the winter and spring instead of waiting until mid-summer. The games used to pepper the third weekend in July. If there were 20 events, they’d all be contested the weekend of Opening Ceremonies.

But not anymore.

“We used to do ice hockey in July and the consistency of the ice … they were skating on slush,” BSSG Executive Director Karen Sanford-Gall told MTN Sports. “It just wasn’t safe, nor is there any ice down in Billings at that time. Then we wanted to add curling, but that was going to be in winter. So, (now) we kind of do that at the tail end of their season.”

Those events are considered spring sports by State Games standards. But early season events don’t stop there.

“Looked at dance and we did it during the games, but they’re out of season then,” Sanford-Gall said. “So we had to move it to a spring event, too. We have a few spring events, then the rest of the events fall the weekend of the Games, although we have a few the weekend before and a few the weekend after.”

The first year of Big Sky State Games activity was in 1986. There were officially 12 events. Now 36 are available. But they did lose a pair this year.

“We’re not doing roller skating, which has come and gone for us,” Sanford-Gall said. “And it may come back. We’re not doing wrestling, unfortunately. It’s a really off time for wrestling. We may do it in the future, in the winter.”

That doesn’t mean particular sports won’t make a return to the State Games.

“We always hold out,” she said. “If there’s a venue and there’s interest — and a qualified person to run it — that’s kind of the criteria of our board of directors.”

BSSG Opening Ceremonies are July 19 at Daylis Stadium in Billings. In the meantime, five more State Games events are scheduled for this weekend: biathlon, billiards, equestrian, swimming and junior golf.

Registration for most upcoming sports is still available here.

Scott Breen

Scott Breen

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