All fun and Utah Summer Games

The massive fireworks display in Cedar City on June 9 was the crowning glory of the 38th annual Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games opening ceremonies. However, what you might not have known is that the games have been ongoing since March.

The 2023 Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games began on March 17 with a tournament in greco, freestyle and folk-style wrestling. The tournament concluded on March 18, and the games themselves took a small hiatus until the water polo competitions began on April 20th.

The events only picked up speed after that. Competitors in moto trials, high power rifle shooting, pistol shooting, sporting clays, skeets and five-stand each took their turn long before summer even started. A grand total of 28 athletic contests took place before the first firework lit up the Cedar City skies, including disc golf, trapshooting and arm wrestling. Eighteen more events are scheduled to follow, and both participants and spectators are eager to see how the games will conclude on June 24th.

The games were founded by former Southern Utah University President Gerald Sherratt and executive director Rich Wilson after being inspired by the 1986 Olympics in Los Angeles, California. At the time, competitors would first compete in regionals before advancing to compete in Cedar City. Today, participants simply have to show up at the finals. Since the games are an amateur sports competition, anyone willing to pay the $35 registration fee is welcome to join the fun. The medalists are also able to compete on a national level in the State Games of America, which compiles competitors from over 25 other states.

When they were first incorporated with the State Games of America, they were called the Utah Summer Games but about seven years ago, the Utah Games were given a new official name by pairing up with the Larry H. Miller Foundation. The event has expanded exponentially since then and over the past 38 years.

“Growing the event from a five-week operation to a fifteen week and growing that athlete count has been really awesome,” said Assistant Director Brigham Nielsen. “In 2022, we had 10,182 athletes, which was a record high. This year, we haven’t done the final count yet, but we believe that it will be closer to 11,000.”

Each and every one of those participants and supporters brings in some much needed business. It’s become a staple for Cedar City’s local economy.

“What I didn’t realize when I started is how important it is to the local businesses. There’s so much tourism money that’s able to be brought in and money that we’re all benefitting from as a county and as a society living here,” Nielsen said. “It’s been really cool to see the small impact that it has on the community and all the businesses here in town and local growth.

That’s what the games are all about: growth. Whether it’s the athletes growing as competitors or the events themselves expanding in numbers, the Utah Summer Games embody the spirit of personal improvement. 

Story by Kaylee Condie
Photos courtesy of Utah Summer Games