Albany -- Friday, Bocce and softball competitions started, but at times it seemed like the goal was not to see who would win, but who could have the most fun.
Ashley Butler isn't much of a talker, but she's an amazing athlete. She even gave me some tips on how to throw a Bocce Ball.
She likes to win, but winning isn't Ashley's only concern. Her mom, Anita, says Ashley's really here to have a good time. "Oh I think it's probably one of the most important things in her life, for her to get out and meet friends."
Friends of all ages, from all across the state. Walter Norman, another Bocce contender, is from Milledgeville. "It's great, good. I love it. It's exciting, a good time."
Not just for the athletes. Walt says, you'll have fun as well, cheering him on. "Everybody clap, everybody say come on Walt Norman, 'you win.'"
But during a break in bocce, you may want to swing over to another sport-- softball. "We're out here to play softball." For what? "For the special Olympics." Sixteen-year-old Steven Gunter can't hide his excitement for the games. He calls it, "Really fun. 100% fun."
And 100% effort playing the games, in their own special way. Right now, though, the athletes are probably getting ready for the opening ceremony, which kicks off at 7:30 at the Albany Civic Center.
All events are free, and organizers encourage fans to pack the stands and support the 1,200 special Olympians competing in Albany this weekend.
All those athletes and their families will bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to Dougherty County. Visitors will spend money on hotels, food, gasoline, and shopping in town this weekend, making close to a half a million dollar economic impact.
In between competitions, they'll also be spending money on entertainment. "We've got a pretty large weekend," says Sara Underdown of the convention and Visitor's Bureau. "We're real excited to have our hotels so busy and to know that the restaurants and all the shopping venues will be busy this weekend as well."
In addition to the Special Olympics, there's also a home game for Albany State and an equestrian event bringing in more visitors.