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Billings rolls out red carpet for Special Olympics Montana State Summer Games

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Posted at 6:15 PM, May 17, 2024

BILLINGS — Special Olympics Montana state summer games are in Billings May 15th through the 17th this year and they are set to return to Billings for the following two years in 2025 and 2026. The event draws 1400 athletes, 1200 plus volunteers and has an economic impact, according to Visit Billings, of nearly one million dollars.

There's a lot of logistics as well as a whole lot of love that goes into welcoming Special Olympics Montana to Billings. Much of it is behind the scenes and some of it is even underground and homemade in the basement bakery space at Stella's Kitchen and Bakery.

“We’re doing 145 loaves of bread for three days in a row. We’re doing white and half wheat.We’re doing a spaghetti dinner for 25 people, we’ll do the garlic bread for them,” says Greg Shaffer, Bakery Manager at Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery as he pulls tray after tray of freshly baked bread out of the oven. “I like donating to the community. It's good for us, and people deserve it.”

People like the Polson Pirates and the Kalispell schools teams are served up lunch sandwiches by volunteers on the daily, with fresh bread sliced from Stella’s. These athletes are only a small portion of the 1400 total who qualified for the state summer games.

The two teams are staying at the Clock Tower Inn, right next to Stella’s and they say the amazing food at Stella’s has fueled them to perform well on the field.

“This is better than any other bread. There’s no preservatives in it. It is made with honey, no sugar, its good bread,” says Shaffer. “You know, as long as they know people care about them, it helps them. That's all that matters.”

There's no shortage of caring people in the summer games city as volunteers at the Boothill Inn spent days on swag bags for every single athlete.

“We just want to put Billings' best foot forward to welcome these amazing athletes into our community. It’s so much fun. We have free admission to the zoo for every athlete, we’ve got a blizzard from Dairy Queen, we’ve got some little frisbee type little flipper things,” says Shelli Mann, General Manager of the Boothill Inn and Special Olympics Montana Volunteer.

The actual bags are donated by an organization known for rolling out the red carpet for all visitors.

“The Visit Billings team, the chamber of commerce, all of our hotels, the restaurants, the tourism partners, attractions; We know this is very important for repeat visitation. We want people to come to Billings, we want them to enjoy themselves, and we want them to come back, so events like this are really an opportunity for us to put our best foot forward and make sure that the athletes and fans have an amazing time,” says Alex Tyson, Executive Director Visit Billings.

If you’re out and about, be sure and congratulate them and welcome them to our city,” says Mann.

You may even consider thanking all of the people who make all of this possible.

“I haven't been upstairs in two days. We've been busy, and I've got a good team. We work pretty good down here. I'm lucky,” says Shaffer.