Nearly 2,500 athletes will participate in the annual Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games this weekend.

At Summer Games — the culminating state competition event of the summer sports season for SONJ — athletes will compete in bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field. Competitions will take place at The College of New Jersey, Schafer Sports Center, and Armstrong Memorial Park in Ewing.

Leading up to Summer Games, more than 4,000 athletes trained and competed at the local and regional level in these seven sports, hoping to find themselves a place amongst the talented athletes at Summer Games.

“Summer Games is our biggest competition event of the year, and is an event that every athlete, coach, parent and volunteer looks forward to,” Heather Andersen, president and CEO of SONJ, said. “This event opens the playing field to our athletes, giving them an opportunity to show off their talents as serious competitors.”

The weekend’s festivities kick-off during the day on Friday at TCNJ, where young athletes participate in a Unified Game Day and middle and high school students take part in a Youth Summit. These students, with and without disabilities, will learn sports and leadership skills and discuss inclusion.

On Friday evening, all are welcome to attend as Summer Games kicks into high-gear at the Opening Ceremony, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in Lions Stadium at TCNJ. The ceremony will include a parade composed of the athletes marching into the stadium, joined by many Rutgers football players. Rutgers football players have been attending the Summer Games for over a decade marching in the Parade of Athletes.

After the Parade of Athletes, select law enforcement officers and athletes will run to light the cauldron, followed by NJ 101.5’s Big Joe Henry broadcasting live and a fireworks display.

Special Olympics is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and history will be on display at Opening Ceremony. Each athlete running the torch to the cauldron will be representing a different decade of Special Olympics, from the 60s to present day. SONJ 50th anniversary memorabilia will also be available at TCNJ throughout the weekend.

Competitions will take place throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday at the various venues; spectators are encouraged to attend to cheer on the athletes as they compete.

All the weekend’s events are completely free of charge to the athletes who compete, including food, housing, travel, entertainment and health screenings. For a detailed event schedule, including a listing of all athletes who will compete, visit sonj.org.