BILLINGS - Just like clockwork, the third weekend in July signifies the Big Sky State Games in and around Billings.
The games are celebrating 36 years of grass roots sports in Montana on a weekend that, through decades, has blossomed from 12 sporting events to 38. It's a spectrum from curling to cornhole, disc golf to dance sports.
Liana Susott, executive director of the event, said there's one big thing to know about this weekend's games in contrast to just a year ago in a summer loaded with health restrictions.
"We're grateful we don't have a mask mandate this year and we're able to bring indoor basketball back into the mix of things," she told MTN Sports on Monday. "So we're at six different facilities, we have about 120 teams, we're just super excited."
Each year, BSSG delivers a former Olympian to light the Opening Ceremonies torch. This year it's another home-grown standout: Billings West graduate Mary Osborne Andrews, who after a standout career at Stanford, was member of the 1980 women's javelin US Olympic team.
Osborne Andrews will be honoring her late brother Tom Osborne, who founded these very State Games almost four decades ago but died unexpectedly in March.
Susott recalls her only summer working with him.
"I was an intern in 1998 so I was able to work with Tom," she said. "He was a wonderful man and we're just so grateful he started the games and he's going to be dearly missed this year."
Osborne spearheaded so many Big Sky State Games torch lightings, including the first ever with Julie Brown in 1986.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Friday for Opening Ceremonies at Daylis Stadium in Billings. Admission is free to the public. This year's festivities include the Parade of Athletes and the always intriguing Montana Mile, separated into invitation-only men's and women's races.