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CSG Opening Ceremonies Set For Friday

Lincoln—The 2016 Cornhusker State Games (CSG) kicks off Friday, July 15 at 8 p.m. at Seacrest Field in Lincoln with Opening Ceremonies featuring moto-cross stunts from Nitro Circus riders Matt Buyten, Anthony Murray and Cowboy Kenny Bartram.

It will also be the first opportunity to learn the identity of this year’s mystery torchlighter as Games organizers return to the tradition of unveiling the secret to the expected 10,000 athletes and guests in attendance.

“The Opening Ceremonies sets the tone for the entire Games, so we like to provide a high-energy headliner.  But, it also respects tradition, stirs emotions and brings friends together,” said Dave Tinius, Opening Ceremonies Committee Chairman.

Also on tap for the evening: skydivers, fireworks, mascots and the traditional parade of athletes, led by Harland Johnson, who has served on the CSG Opening Ceremonies Committee since its inception in 1985.  The Oath of Athletes will be led by National Guard Sgt. Calvin Koziol, who recently won the National Guard’s National Soldier of the Year Award.

The Ceremonies is preceded by SportFest, which features a free meal, entertainment and exhibitor expo inside East High School.  The expo, with more than 30 exhibitors, actually begins with packet pickup on Thursday, July 14 and lasts through Saturday, July 16. 

More than 10,000 participants are registered to compete in the 32nd annual Cornhusker State Games, with competition in 68 sports from July 16-24 at venues in Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding communities. Some 293 Nebraska communities are represented.  The oldest participant is 89 year-old trackster Dorothy Ekblad of Lincoln; the youngest, CSG Walk participant Coralyn Perkins, 2, also of Lincoln.

Soccer is currently the top sport in registrations, with 939 players signed up. Softball—891, Basketball—799, Volleyball—721 and Track & Field—556 round out the top five.  Besides the competition, registered athletes receive a shirt, admission to the Opening Ceremonies, a voucher for a free ticket to a Lincoln Saltdogs baseball game, a free meal at SportFest and a chance to win one of 4,000 custom cast CSG medals. 

Many sports are still accepting participants, and volunteers are still needed.  Those interested can view openings and register at, where they can also purchase CSG Super Passes

More on the Opening Ceremonies…

…Skydivers from the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club include Mike Blacksher, Larry Bartlett, Dan Myers and Kenneth Bader.  Blacksher has jumped into the CSG Ceremonies all 27 times that the CSG has featured skydivers.  The Fairbury native was named the 2012 CSG Senior Athlete of the Year for his prowess in Sport Skydiving.  Bartlett will jump with the American Flag tethered to his boot, a feat he has accomplished 330 times in his 46 years of skydiving.  This will be his 23rd landing at the CSG Ceremonies.  Myers, who hails from Hastings, is making his 8th CSG jump and is renowned as a multiple world record holder for large formation jumps.  Bader, a native of Albion, has logged more than 6,230 jumps in his career, including three in the CSG Opening Ceremonies.

…Nitro Circus stunt-rider Anthony Murray has appeared in four movies and Florida Georgia Line’s “This is How We Roll” music video.  The Canyon City, CO native has been riding professionally for six years and has a Monster Energy X-Pilots Championship to his credit.  Matt Buyten appears at the Games for the second straight year.  The 12-time X-Games medalist and Murrieta, CA native was part of last year’s Metal Mulisha performance at the State Games of America Opening Ceremonies in Memorial Stadium.  Cowboy Kenny Bartram, a native of Stillwater, OK, has 10 X-Games medals, including four golds, and is a 7-time World Champion.  He has appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, 60 Minutes and Ty Murray’s Celebrity Bull-Riding.  Bartram also has two movie credits and has appeared in four music videos.

…Oath of Athletes leader National Guard Sgt. Calvin Koziol, a native of Albion, earned the title of NG Soldier of the Year by winning state, regional and national Best Warrior competitions.  In honor of this achievement, Governor Pete Ricketts recently named July 5, 2016 as Sgt. Calvin Koziol Day in Nebraska.

…More than 3,000 of the athletes have pledged to march in the CSG Parade of Athletes.  They will be led into Seacrest Stadium in sport order by CSG’s 2005 Volunteer of the Year Harland Johnson, who has served multiple roles in the Opening Ceremonies, including Committee Chairman, PA Announcer, Field Director and Video Producer.  Johnson has a 50-year record of service to the community of Lincoln, including Bethany Christian Church, Lincoln East Rotary, the Nebraska Legislature, the Northeast YMCA and families throughout the area, for whom he played Santa Claus, making an average of 40 appearances every holiday season.  He was recently awarded the City of Lincoln Mayor’s Medallion by Mayor Chris Beutler in recognition of a lifetime of service to the community.

…the national anthem will be performed by acapella trio MajorMinor3 from McCook, which won the CSG’s Facebook competition, earning more than 900 likes for their video audition.  Members include Shelby Stevens, 16, Riley Rambali, 17 and Tyler Rambali, 20.

…Chris Lofgreen, voice of the Lincoln Saltdogs, will be the PA announcer for the Ceremonies.  Field emcees include KOLN-KGIN 10/11 news Owen Jensen and Bridget Fargen and sports anchor Kevin Sjuts.

…Dance and cheer routines will be performed on the field during the Parade of Athletes by kids from Cheer Express of Lincoln and Pas De Deux dance academy.  Parade marchers will have an opportunity to see themselves on the new Seacrest Field video board.  Lincoln Public Schools has long been a facility partner of the Cornhusker State Games and helped make arrangements for the Nitro Circus exhibition as a teaser performance.  Seacrest field will be showcased a week later on Saturday, July 23 in a full Nitro Circus Live performance.  Tickets are still available at

…Dignitaries on hand for the Ceremonies will include Lt. Governor Mike Foley, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, National Guard Adjutant General Daryl Bohac, Miss Nebraska Aleah Peters, Olympic Gold Medalist and 2006 CSG Mystery Torchlighter Curtis Tomasevicz and Caroline Ansell, a member of the British Parliament visiting Nebraska as a guest of U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who will also be in attendance.

…Mascots, including Sporty the Torch, Runza Rex, Willie West (Millard West High School), Sylvester the Silver Hawk (Lincoln Southwest High School) and the Nebraska State Patrol’s Trooper Buck L Up.  The mascot showcase will be accompanied by the distribution of 500 shirts into the crowd via shirt cannons.

…an 8-minute fireworks finale by Aerial FX will punctuate the opening declaration, “Let the Games Begin”, by CSG Honorary Chairman Steve Ford, the CEO of LinPepCo, distributor of several beverage brands, including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Gatorade and AquaFina. LinPepCo has been a sponsor of the Games since its inception in 1985.

…the CSG Summer Expo, which leads into SportFest and the Opening Ceremonies, is a new venture for the Games, with 30+ exhibitors.  Most booths will be situated in the East High main gym around the CSG packet pickup station and CSG official merchandise and medal customization booths.  The Expo is open and free to the public Thursday, July 14 through Saturday, July 16.  All Expo attendees have an opportunity to win $500 in free airfare vouchers from the Lincoln Airport and other prizes donated by exhibitors.

Besides LinPepCo, Nebraska Sports Council platinum partners include CHI Health and Nebraska Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine.  The Opening Ceremonies is presented by Casey’s General Stores, Arby’s and WideRange Broadband. 

Gold partners for 2016 include Alpha Media, Black Hills Energy, BlueCross and BlueShield of Nebraska, City of Lincoln, Digital Sky, Farmers Mutual Insurance of Nebraska, Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs, KOLN-KGIN Television, the Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Lincoln Saltdogs,, Midwest Office Automations, the Nebraska National Guard, the Nebraska Lottery, the Nebraska State Athletic Trainers Association, the Omaha World-Herald, Revolution Wraps, Sandhills Publishing, Scheels, SourceOne, Union Bank & Trust, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the Vinnie Krikac State Farm Agency.

Silver partners include Abante Marketing, Allo Communications, Aqua Systems, B & R Stores, Bison, Inc., Baird Holm, Clarity Technologies, Firespring, Honda of Lincoln, Kidwell, the Nebraska Medical Association, the Nebraska Public Power District, Norland Pure, Red Dirt Running Company, Southeast Community College, Spine & Sports Chiropractic, Staples and TMCO, Inc.

Bronze partners include Advanced Medical Imaging, Ameritas Life Insurance Corp., Amigos/Kings Classic, Arby’s of Omaha, Big Red Self Storage, BNSF Railways, Commonwealth Electric, Complete Children’s Health, Crete Carrier, Hiland Dairy, Hohl Orthodontics, Hornady Mfg., Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp., Liberty First Credit Union, Lincoln Pediatric Dentistry, Luckies Lounge & Grill, Max Muscle, Midland University, Moles, the Nebraska Sheriffs’ Association, Olsson Associates, Pratt Industries, REALTORS Association of Lincoln, Restore A Muscle Car, Runza, Sowers Club of Lincoln, Sysco-Lincoln, Trophies Plus, UNICO Group, Valentino’s and Valley Vending Service.

The Nebraska Sports Council, which conducts the Cornhusker State Games, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to provide quality athletic competition for athletes of all ages and abilities and promote healthy and active lifestyle choices.  Learn more at