January 31, 2005
When winter sports athletes and enthusiasts from around the world converge on Fort Kent again this coming March, the University of Maine at Fort Kent will again pitch in to help the local community welcome and host the international visitors.
UMFK has entered into a partnership with organizers of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Championships, which will be held in Fort Kent March 9 through March 21.
The IPC World Championships come a year after the Fort Kent community hosted the 2004 Biathlon World Cup competitions, during which UMFK also partnered with the community to stage the successful event.
IPC Nordic skiing competitions are open to athletes with a physical disability (sit-ski and standing classes) and visually impaired athletes, who compete with a sighted guide. The competition involves two disciplines, cross-country and biathlon. Male and female individuals may compete in short distance, middle distance, long distance and Biathlon events or participate in a team relay using classical or free techniques.
"We are thrilled that Fort Kent will once again have the opportunity to showcase our first class winter sports recreation facilities, our wonderful community and our warm hospitality," said UMFK President Richard Cost. "Events such as this one and last year's World Cup are providing important new economic, social and cultural development opportunities for the St. John Valley. We will support this effort in every way that we can. For our students, witnessing these events will provide an extraordinary opportunity to see how the human spirit can overcome physical challenges."
Under the agreement with the IPC, UMFK will serve as the host site and administrative headquarters for a number of activities held away from the Maine Winter Sports Center's 10th Mountain Division Lodge during the two weeks in March.
Specifically, the University will allocate space in the campus SportsCenter in the two weeks leading up to the first competitions for accreditation of hundreds of community volunteers and officials, as well as provide space for distribution of the official volunteer uniform.
In the days leading up to the first sporting contests, the UMFK SportsCenter will also be the site for athlete classification that will allow officials with the IPC to test athletes to determine their level of ability for competition.
Throughout the two weeks of sport, coaches and team officials from each of the participating nations will hold a total of seven team captain's meetings on the UMFK campus. The meetings are held to discuss details of the next day's competition, and in some cases to determine the start order of athletes in the race.
IPC officials will also hold two IPC Nordic skiing open forums for teams at UMFK during their time in Fort Kent. The gatherings are held to address the future of the sport within the IPC movement.
The University will also provide facilities and organizational support for the organizing committee's VIP dinner, and for a closing gala open to all participants and volunteers as a thank you on March 20 after the final day of competition.
"If it had not been for the University, we would not have been able to pull off last year's World Cup in such a world class way. We are so pleased that UMFK is partnering with the community for the IPC Nordic World Championships," said Nancy Thibodeau, event manager. "The University is an important asset to the St. John Valley. We are most fortunate to have an institution with such community-minded and involved people."
In addition to the IPC games, many other activities will take place on the UMFK campus in March.
President Richard Cost will host an open house after the Can-Am Sled Dog Races on March 5.
"This is an annual event, one that Ellen and I look forward to every year" said Cost. "This year the Chancellor of the University of Maine System, Dr. Joseph Westphal is planning to spend the day with us here in town."
UMFK will also host this year's Northern Maine Drama Festival on March 11 and 12 and the Fort Kent Pride of Lion's Show a week later on March 17, 18 and 19. Both events will be held in the Fox Auditorium.
The University's annual "Sucrerie" or maple sugar day will be held on Thursday, March 24.