Senior Olympics helps new neighborhood come together

Mayor Kathleen Backer throws a water balloon during the tossing competition at the Waraju neighborhood senior olympics Thursday. The balloons provided much needed cool relief from the heat when they burst.

NEW ULM — A group of new neighbors put together a Senior Olympics-style event to increase neighborhood camaraderie Thursday.

The event featured ladder ball, corn hole, and a water balloon toss that saw competitors try to catch water balloons without breaking them. In the current heat wave, balloon splashes of cold water were welcomed. Activities were chosen based on what games people had on hand.

Organizer Ron Brutlag donned a chef’s hat and manned the grill, making pancakes and sausages. Brutlag said the neighborhood they live in, Waraju Ave., is a new development filled with mainly elderly people. He said the event idea started with communication.

“I was walking my dog down this street and John and Anita Shikoski who live right there were playing,” Brutlag said. “We were talking and we said ‘hey, we ought to do something with’ and that’s how it got going.”

Competitor and organizer John Shikoski said the next step was letting everyone else know about it. “Three couples got together,” he said. “We made a sheet and we took them around. We gave them to people as invitations.”

Organizer Ron Brutlag stands in his chef’s hat as he cooks up some pancakes and sausages for the hungry competitors Thursday morning. Ladder ball, corn hole, and water balloon toss made sure that competitors stayed hungry for more.

The torch signaling the beginning of the event was carried by Mayor Kathleen Backer. She also participated in several of the games, tossing and getting soaked by water balloons. She said the event was a very positive experience.

“It was a great and clever way to get the neighborhood together,” Backer said. “For some in the neighborhood they’re new so that was good to get them involved. The level of energy and excitement in the air was awesome. I think its food for thought for larger events as a program for seniors, do it at one of the city parks.”

The event in total had around 25 people come and participate. They all got shiny gold medals for their participation. “We’re all winners,” Brutlag said. “If you’ve made it to retirement age, you’re a winner.”

One concern was the heat, which has reached dangerous levels over the past several days. An early start time and cloud cover helped ensure everyone could still compete.

“We didn’t know it was going to be this hot,” Brutlag said. “It’s turned out fine, nobody died of heat exhaustion or passed out or anything. We started early with breakfast at 9 a.m. and we had balloon toss which cooled people down.”

The event was deemed by organizers and competitors alike as a success. Brutlag hopes this idea spreads to other new neighborhoods as a way to bring new people together. If the event is held in the future, he would like to expand it to neighboring communities. “It’s a good way for people to get to know their neighbors,” Brutlag said.

There is only one thing Brutlag would change concerning the event if he could. “We would have a cooler day, but you can’t [predict the weather],” he said.


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