A new family-oriented weekend-long event is preparing to make its debut at the Lake of the Ozarks next year and to return again two years later.

A new family-oriented weekend-long event is preparing to make its debut at the Lake of the Ozarks next year and to return again two years later.

In 2015, the Lake of the Ozarks Can-Am Police & Fire Games Planning Committee comprised of local fire district, police department and emergency services personnel along with the Tri-County Lodging Association, secured the bids for the 2018 and 2020 games that will feature approximately 50 athletic competitions with proceeds benefitting Special Olympics Missouri.

Committee member and Osage Beach Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Dorhauer said the minimum goal is to host 1,200 police, fire and EMS athletes as well as their families, and he expects a large portion of that total to come from Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

However, the committee is thinking big and has formulated an email list of 19,000 athletes who have competed in previous games. These athletes will all be invited to participate at the Lake of the Ozarks, the first ever location to receive approval on back-to-back bids.

The games, which take place every other year, were started in 1977 and have grown over the last decade to a full-out six-day event. Past locations included Thunder Bay, Ontario, Pennsylvania, New York and Washington and athletes come from all over the United States and Canada to participate.

The 2018 event is scheduled for June 25 through July 1.

“2018 will be the more difficult of the two years. The Lake of the Ozarks is unique in that once we get them we know we can get them back. We’re confident they will return and our numbers will really climb in 2020,” Dorhauer said last week in an interview with the Lake Sun. “The 50 different events really range from true olympic-style events to even some fun events. We’ll do combined events with the Special Olympics Missouri — a putt-putt competition, a dart tournament, a poker game. At night we have things planned for people to do including a barbecue cookout, volunteer party, a concert and some other social events we’re planning for all the people coming in.”

A majority of the events will be hosted at venues in the counties of Camden, Morgan and Miller, but will also expand to Lebanon’s Cowan Civic Center and Springfield’s Mediacom Park for events involving swimming and ice hockey. Local venues include Camdenton High School, Old Kinderhook, Tan-Tar-A (event host lodge), Osage National, Lodge of Four Seasons, Osage Beach City Park, the trapshooting range on Route A, and of course the Lake of the Ozarks itself.

“Our two biggest goals now deal with funding. We’ll be kicking off our volunteer recruitment in the not so distant future. We’re looking for corporate sponsorships, but what we really need is area businesses from $100 to $500. If we get everyone to participle that would fund the event,” Dorhauer explained, adding the committee was looking to raise approximately $500,000 for supplies, officials and game operations. “We believe every business will be affected by the games, if not directly, indirectly. We realize we’re here because of tourism and this is what we can do to support the economy in the areas who support us.”

Dorhauer reiterated that Special Olympics Missouri has been designated as the event’s official charity beneficiary and the non-profit event will donate any profit to their cause. The organization is also working with the committee in the form of volunteers and event planning to coordinate those competitions to be shared by the Can-Am athletes and Special Olympic athletes while its president and CEO, Mark Musso, serves on the Can-Am committee.

One of the key factors the Can-Am Games Federation considered in awarding the back-to-back bids, Dorhauer said, was the successful operation and cooperation between Lake area emergency services personnel and large tourist-drawing events like the Shootout and Lake Race. The family-friendly atmosphere of the Lake as well as key infrastructure in place in the form of lodging, recreation and commercial activities also played into effect, Dorhauer believes.

“Almost anywhere can host these games as far as facilities go, they were really wanting to become more family friendly and they thought we offered that here,” he said. “They know we understand an event of this magnitude and size and know we have the background and expertise to pull it off.”

The Lake of the Ozarks Can-Am Police and Fire Games Planning Committee consists of the fire chiefs from the entire Lake area, Camden and Miller county sheriff’s offices, Osage and Camdenton police departments, Missouri Department of Corrections, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Tri-County Lodging Association, Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the President/CEO of Special Olympics Missouri.

For more information about the games, sponsorships or registration, please visit lakeozarkcanamgames.com.