Aikens Olympics: Photos & Stories of the Event
Sep. 07, 2016
We recently celebrated a highly anticipated, annual tradition that generates competition and camaraderie: the Aikens Olympics. The event features six teams of four staff members having a blast competing against each other across five different events including flip cup, ghetti games, and DrinkStationery (think Pictionary with adult beverages involved), all kicked off with an opening ceremony outside the bait and tackle shop where teams emerge with a short skit.
“It’s something the staff really look forward to,” said Janelle Trudel, a former Olympian herself who now helps Julie orchestrate the big event. “People talk about it starting in May, and it builds up all summer long.”
The opening ceremony starts with “O Canada” and from there draws oohs and aahs (and laughter) as each team makes a dramatic appearance in costumes they had way too much fun designing. The creativity of our staff shines through here; teams come up with their own names and outlandish costumes. This year we had teams such as Bluewater Aviation, Sesame Street and Kissing Cousins, a team that dressed up in jest as hillbillies.
Bluewater Aviation’s appearance, with a golf cart imitating a floatplane, drew the best response from the younger generation. Janelle’s son, Oscar, thought the plane was real and wanted to board for a ride.
All the kids enjoyed the festivities and the resident grandmother, Pit’s mom Loraine, served as scorekeeper. Teams earn three points for winning an event, two points for second place and one point for third. A combination of Pit and Julie, “lucky” guests, and Grant, our carpenter extraordinaire, serve as judges.
Over the years, even a few guests have participated in the Olympics. “James Derksen and his group participated in a few demo events including flip-cup, and the ladies did well!” Pit recalled. “That group also played the game where the whole team has to walk on a 2x4 at the same time. They fell over and couldn't stop laughing. I remember Kurt Derksen just lying on his back laughing and laughing for like 30 seconds before getting back up on his feet.”
This year––the 22nd consecutive Aikens Olympics––marked the first year in which half the events took place indoors. An epic lip sync battle at Big Molly’s Band was one of most memorable events. Teams jammed out to Backstreet Boys, ACDC, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from the Lion King and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
“It’s fun to see people get really into it,” Janelle said. “For example, Coco came out of his comfort zone. During the lip sync contest he was all about it. And during their opening ceremony skit we were like, ‘Wait a second, aren’t you usually a lot quieter than this?’”
Throughout the evening, competitors have the chance to earn “bonus points” for doing favors for judges and guests, which is another chance for participants to step outside their comfort zone (and a way for guests and management to have drinks delivered to them all night long!). Extra bonus points earned teams additional supplies for the ghetti games event, when teams used spaghetti and marshmallows to construct various items.
Team Sesame Street, led by Elmo and Cookie Monster, earned the most bonus points, which fueled them to one of the most stunning comebacks in Olympic history. After getting blanked in the opening event, FlipCup, team Sesame Street won three of the final four events to win gold by one point and secure their place in Olympic history alongside Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Carey Price. The champions earned the right to add their signatures to the back of our official Aikens Olympics plaque and get their photo taken with the prize.
Another memorable moment came during a well-deserved tribute to head guide Jesse Lariviere. After eight wonderful years at Aikens, Jesse is hanging up his fishing rod and moving on––though we’re still counting on him to come back from time to time. In the days before, several staff members approached Pit about doing a toast for Jesse, which worked perfectly as Pit was already planning something to honor Jesse, a perennial camp favorite.
After the last outdoor event, everyone chanted a special cheer for Jesse. Various Aikens employees including Julie and Pit gave brief speeches, then Jesse himself said a few heartfelt words before everyone shot gunned a beer in his honor. The Olympics landed on his last night at Aikens, making for a special send-off.
In the end, the hilarious and entertaining night provided fun memories, as always.
“The Olympics are so great for staff bonding, and that’s really what they’re all about,” said Janelle, adding that Julie intentionally places best friends and boyfriends and girlfriends on separate teams to give people a chance to bond with teammates they don’t hang out with as much on a day-to-day basis. “We have a great team at Aikens and we’re lucky to work with people who enjoy each other’s company and love what they do. The Olympics are a great way to have fun and connect with one another.”
Now that it’s over, we’re already looking forward to the 2017 games.