NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — This summer, WMBD is taking a road trip and showcasing the community’s viewers call home. This week, our stop is in Normal!

This weekend, the Special Olympics of Illinois (SOILL) will host its annual summer games in the Town for the first time since 2019. For two years the event did not happen due to COVID-19, however, a virtual option was held.

4,000 athletes will compete Friday, Saturday and Sunday in various athletics events including soccer, swimming, track and field and even powerlifting. Director of Sports and Market Development at Visit BN, Matt Hawkins, said it’s one of the largest events hosted in the area each year.

“We’re very excited to have the Special Olympics Summer games in our community,” Hawkins said.

Making its home in the Twin Cities since 1977, this year the SOILL Summer Games return for a three-day weekend full of competition and fun. For the local economy, an estimated $800,000 in tourism revenue.

“June is a busy month for the Bloomington-Normal community with our hotels a lot of people staying overnight, eating in our restaurants, visiting our shopping centers,” Hawkins said.

With thousands of athletes, coaches and their families, the summer games are hosted by Illinois State University, but the Town of Normal also shows its support by hosting a victory dance on Saturday night.

“About 5,000 people will be in Uptown Normal for the Victory Dance, we shut down the street in front of the Normal Theater… Their families are there to cheer them on, there’s music, there’s dancing,” said the cultural arts director for the Town of Normal, Beth Whisman.

While the Special Olympics of Illinois is headquartered in the town of Normal, Whisman said that doesn’t guarantee the town gets to host the games.

“We compete for this, Bloomington-Normal as a convention and visitors bureau and Illinois State University work together to be able to do this every year, we never take it for granted,” Whisman said.

“I think Bloomington-Normal has shown over the years, we do events right, and we’re hospitable,” Hawkins said. “When these folks come here for an event or tournament, they’ve had a great time, and they typically want to come back and do it again. That’s one of the reasons we’re here as a CVB is to help make sure they have a good time while they’re here and that these folks keep coming back to our community each and every year.”

The games get underway Friday and last through Sunday.

Events are taking place mostly at Illinois State University, however, Kingsley Jr High School and Normal Community High School are also hosting some SOILL events.

  • Kingsley Junior High
    • Powerlifting
  • ISU Intramural Fields
    • Soccer
  • Illinois State University
    • Artistic Gymnastics (Horton Field House)
    • Bocce (Baseball Stadium)
    • Softball Throw (Soccer Stadium)
    • Tennis Ball Throw & Mini Jav (Hancock Stadium)
    • Track Events (ISU Track)
    • Tournament Central (Horton Field House)
  • Normal Community High School
    • Rhythmic Gymnastics
    • Swimming
  • Redbird Arena
    • Healthy Athletes

The SOILL is still in need of volunteers for all three days. Roles include scoring, souvenir sales and awards presenters. To sign up, visit its website.