Bocce, Cornhole, Camaraderie!
Clayton Hosts Hundreds for NC Senior Games Finals
On a chilly, drizzly October afternoon, 88-year-old World War II veteran Paul McKay stood at the edge of the rain-soaked Bocce courts at Clayton Community Park, a steely look of concentration on his face. Bundled up in a lawn chair on the sidelines, wearing winter gloves, was his 85-year-old wife, Florence, watching anxiously as her husband competed for the gold medal in the State Finals of the NC Senior Games.
"Every year we come and we love it," said Florence McKay who for 15 dedicated years has made the long trek from Scotland County with her husband to compete in the games. "But we know, if it's Bocce in Clayton, it's going to rain! That's ok though, we came prepared and we're here doing it and that's what matters!"
The McKays were just some of the nearly 300 seniors who descended on Clayton to compete in the Bocce and Cornhole Senior Games finals, Oct. 9th and 10th. They came from all over the state, some from as far as Mercer and Cherokee Counties.
"This helps me stay young," said Paul McKay, who would go on to win the Silver Medal for his age group in the Bocce Finals. McKay served under decorated aviator Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle aboard the USS Hornet and survived a torpedo bombing that would leave him floating in the Pacific Ocean.
"I've got to keep moving and I think this is wonderful," he chuckled. "Except I don't care too much for your weather!"
Participants and organizers with the Clayton Parks and Recreation Department joke that the annual Senior Games in Clayton seem doomed to at least have one day of bad weather every year. But players say, there is no place they would rather be. And the sun came out in full force for the second day of events.
"Clayton is a great place to come," said John Greco, who compared Clayton's courts to those in Winston Salem where the finals have also been held. "These are well-maintained. We see your people out here putting out gravel and topsoil and really taking care of it. Whenever the Games are here, they are fantastic."
About 150 men and women competed in the Cornhole rounds and another 150 in the Bocce rounds. Florence McKay lost a bronze medal in cornhole by one point, but says winning is not the main motivation for coming.
"We love it," she said, " We enjoy the people, we've made lots of friends who we now see almost year. So if you lose, you lose...it's doesn't mean anything. If you're here in Clayton doing it, that's what counts."
The NC Senior Games reach more than 60,000 people 55 and better, helping to get them active, socializing and most importantly, showing off their talents! The games began in 1983 and include more than 70 events, from sports as rigorous as cycling, softball, and cheerleading to heritage arts as calming as basket weaving, woodcarving and poetry. They provide a way for seniors to keep their bodies, minds, and spirits fit while enjoying the company of friends, family, spectators and volunteers. Of those 60,000 who competed in their local games this year, more than 3,000 qualified for the state finals, like those in Cornhole and Bocce.
The NC Senior games also provide volunteers a great way to get involved in the community. About 20 volunteers from Caterpillar gave their time to help judge the competitions over the two-day finals.
"This was fantastic, definitely," said Bryon Baggaley of Caterpillar, which was looking for ways to volunteer in the community, helping with team building and getting to see active seniors having fun. "It doesn't matter your age. My supervisor said he judged a woman in the 95-year-old age range yesterday who was far better than him...and he's only in his late 30's!"
It was the first year the NC Senior games included cornhole in the finals. With the success of the Bocce games, Community Park seemed a natural fit for the new competition. The damp ball fields forced the event onto the pavement, but seniors say it was still a great location. The visiting athletes say they try to make a vacation out of the trip to Clayton, eating out at local restaurants and visiting downtown.
Clayton will be looking for more volunteers for next year's NC Senior Games because the cutthroat competition will be on again in 2013, rain or shine!