We're here at the University at Buffalo for tonight's opening ceremonies of the 32nd Empire State Games.
If you haven't checked it out already, our preview was in today's paper.
5:41 p.m. After fighting some traffic, we have arrived at the press box at UB Stadium. On the way up, the grills were heating up in the concession stands. People are roaming around Empire Village, enjoying the live music before the ceremonies begin.
Some dark clouds are coming in, and there were a couple rolls of thunder. We will keep you updated on the weather, as well as all the other happenings here at the opening ceremonies.
6:00 p.m. One hour until opening ceremonies, and activity is starting within the stadium. Event staff has met and given instructions to volunteers. On the field, there are two video screens on either side of the main stage showing ESG video. It features video clips of different sports and messages from many of the sponsors. Behind the stadium, we can see some of the athletes gathering.
6:22 p.m. Fans are filing into the stadium as we draw closer to the ceremonies. It's windy outside, and there is a huge dark cloud looming over one end of the stadium. The rest of the skies are clear with only a few clouds. The hometown fans are out in full force. A few are sitting in front of the pressbox wearing t-shirts that read "The West is Best" on the back.
6:33 p.m. Keith McShea checked out some of the pre-ceremony activity and just sent this in from his phone.There was a huge line of spectators lined up at the gate, extending all the way along the concrete walk to the stadium and back near the parking lots. Once the gates opened at 6, the line moved quickly into the stadium.
Also moving along was the huge darkening cloud that hovered over the stadium and something to do with those thunder rumbles earlier. The skies seem to be clearing up and the breeze that was whipping around has subsided a bit.
I walked through the Empire Family Village -- set up in the parking lot closest to the stadium entrance -- with photographer Mark Mulville.The tented area was getting good foot traffic from fans and some athletes, including the Adirondack men's hockey team.
Victor E. Bull was hanging out and posing for photos while fans got their picture taken with the ESG torch that has made the round of the area -- and the state -- during the torch tour.
And check this out -- the paint-splattered Rusin is the brother of Mark Rusin, the former Amherst standout athlete who swam in the Empire State Games and played football at Penn State. Here's a plug for Blair's art: artbyblair.com
And a late tip -- don't bring an umbrella. A couple of frustrated fans were walking them back to their cars -- umbrellas are prohibited.
The good news at the gate is that there is free Intense chocolate milk. You'll have to excuse me now. I'm thirsty."
6:38 p.m. This just in from Keith McShea. Olympian Steve Mesler will be carrying the torch for Western. He grew up in Buffalo and won a gold medal in bobsledding at the 2010 Games.
6:50 p.m. Only a few minutes away now. On stage, the Buffalo Chips, an all-male acapella group from UB, is performing "Fireflies" by Owl City. Behind the stage you can see all the athletes lined up and ready to march in at 7.
6:55 p.m. Fans are now in the upperdecks on both sides of the stadium.
7:02 p.m. The Buffalo Chips have left the stage, and a group of dignitaries have now been seated. Steve Tasker is serving as master of ceremonies and welcomed everyone to the ESG. He mentioned the games being canceled last year, but said, "We are back and stronger than ever." He also took time to thank all of the sponsors.
7:09 p.m. Going over a few housekeeping items, asking people to turn off cell phones and to remain seated during the fireworks.
The Masters division athletes processed in first. Adirondack region is coming in next. The athletes are slowly filling in the football field.
7:14 p.m. Central region is next (looks like we are going alphabetical). All of the athletes are wearing matching warm-up suits, and each region carries in a sign with their colors on it.
7:18 p.m. Hudson Valley is coming out now. Uniform colors for this weekend are : Adirondack- gold, Long Island-Gray, Central- light blue, Hudson Valley- green, New York City-orange, and Western will be wearing navy blue.
7:22 p.m. Long Island is next,followed by New York City. A few of the athletes did flips and tumbles as they led their team out on the track. City is a very animated group, jumping up and down and waving as they walk.
7:28 p.m. Western is now entering the stadium to a huge round of cheers. Steve Mesler is wearing his Olympic medal and walking at the head of the group.
7:34 p.m. Western is right in front of the stage. All the athletes are moving up to get close to the main stage, some are even running. The Buffalo Chips are back to sing the national anthem.
7:40 p.m. Former Congressman Jack Quinn took the stage to speak. He wished the athletes luck and told them to have fun.
7:43 p.m. Marquel was with some of the Western athletes before the ceremonies. He spoke with Haley Welch, a women's hockey player from East Amherst. She will be playing through an injured foot. The doctor told her she couldn't run, but she could skate.
That's all Western needs from her.
7:53 p.m. There's been a series of speakers all saying the same thing. They thank the sponsors and wish the athletes luck. One nice feature is a sign language translator on stage, who they are showing in the corner of the large video screens so the whole audience can see her. Carol Ash, Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation, made a shout out to the athletes from Boston. Wrong state.
7:57 p.m. All the athletes pledged to follow the rules and maintain sportsmanship during the games, reciting the pledge along with a speaker on stage.
7:58 p.m. Here comes the torch. It is being run around the track by a male and female athlete, Clare Crowley a Western Women's open basketball player and New York City boxer Daniel Gonzalez of Ozone Park, Queens. Crowley is the girls basketball coach at Williamsville North. It was brought to the the side of the stage for the final lighting. Many of the fans are on their feet cheering.
8:02 p.m. The stage is being cleared and prepped for Third Eye Blind. While they are working, they are showing a video of past ESG athletes and game footage.
8:10 p.m. Steve Tasker came back to get all the athletes cheering, calling them out by region. New York City was as loud or louder than Western. After he spoke, they began showing yet another video. Many of the athletes are beginning to sit down on the field.
8:18 p.m. Running a little ahead of schedule. Now everyone is left waiting for the music to start. Good thing they have those videos to keep playing.
8:28 p.m. The show is underway. Third Eye Blind is on stage, and fireworks will go off during the last two songs.
8:33 p.m. A good number of athletes left the field instead of staying for the entertainment. Some are walking out as they have begun to play.
8:45 p.m. Here's a quote from Fred Smith, Empire State Games director, courtesy of Keith McShea. Smith said, "It was a wonderful evening. The weather held off for us, the crowd was enthusiastic - we had a great crowd. I couldn't be any happier about the kickoff Buffalo has given to the return of the Empire State Games."
Third Eye Blind is currently rocking their best known song, "Semi-Charmed Life".
8:58 p.m. The athletes seem to be enjoying themselves. A few kids even went crowd surfing. Third Eye Blind is currently playing "Never Let You Go", another one of their most poplar songs from the late 90's.
Attendance estimate from Fred Smith is 15,000.
9:12 p.m. They keep bringing me back to my childhood. Just played "Jumper", another big radio hit from 1997. Getting dark outside. Fireworks should be coming soon.
9:22 p.m. The fireworks are starting as Third Eye Blind is finishing up their set list. Great way to end the ceremonies and our coverage. Check back all weekend for more coverage of the 2010 ESG.
---Amanda Bremer and Marquel Slaughter