Lewis Griswold

Visalia to host Valley’s first senior games

Logo for 2015 Visalia Senior Games
Logo for 2015 Visalia Senior Games Eric Cribbs of Cribbsproject New Media Designs.

The first senior games to be held in the San Joaquin Valley will take place this fall in Visalia, and the city hopes it will boost the economy and grow into an annual event.

The 2015 inaugural Visalia Senior Games will be held Oct. 21-25 and is open to anyone age “50 and better,” organizers said. It is not necessary to be a resident of Visalia or even California.

Participants will be grouped in five-year increments — 50-54, for instance. There will be 11 age divisions for men and women in each sport.

Games will include tennis, bowling, table tennis, pickleball, horseshoes, archery, golf, softball, and 5K and 10K road races. Competitions end with Olympics-style medal ceremonies, but the emphasis is on fitness and fun.

Although senior games have occurred in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, “there’s never been anything in the Central Valley before,” said Allison Lambert, Visalia Parks & Recreation Department spokeswoman.

The games are patterned on the Huntsman World Senior Games that take place annually in St. George, Utah. Visalia Council Member Warren Gubler attended the games and saw great potential for his city.

“In 2009, I was looking for a signature event for Visalia, like Tulare has the farm show,” he said. “I happened to attend the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George and they had 10,000 seniors from around the world. The whole community got behind it.”

The economic impact was clear as every hotel and RV parking lot was filled to capacity, he said.

He pitched the senior games concept to fellow City Council members and city staff and garnered support.

The Parks & Recreation Department is coordinating the games under the umbrella of the National Senior Games Association and the California Senior Games Association.

Organizers got a psychological boost when Kaweah Delta Health Care District signed on as the presenting sponsor, meaning it will buy equipment and help supply volunteers. Anyone would like to volunteer should call the Visalia Parks & Recreation Department at (559) 713-4365 or email recreation@visalia.city.

“I’m hoping we’ll be doing this every year,” Gubler said.

TRUE DETECTIVE: Actor Colin Ferrell of the “True Detective” season 2 series on HBO was in Tulare County a few months ago shooting scenes for the final installment, which will be shown Sunday, reports Eric Coyne, Tulare County film commissioner.

Also present was Nic Pizzolatto, who created the show, writes it and runs it.

Ferrell and a crew of about 190 spent four days shooting scenes among the giant sequoia trees at Balch Park above Springville, Coyne said. That was in early May.

They kept a low profile but were recognized while dining at Applebee’s in Porterville, and someone tweeted it, Coyne said.

Getting permission to film action scenes on federal lands that have giant sequoias was proving to be a problem. So the county, which owns Balch Park, was happy to oblige, he said.

The production injected an estimated $60,000 into the local economy, Coyne said.

To show the county’s appreciation, Coyne gave Ferrell, Pizzolatto and HBO executives gift baskets of local olive oil, pistachios, almond butter, blueberries, honey and other items.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold