Cornhusker State Games

by Dave Mlnarik

The Cornhusker State Games, held annually in mid-July, is one of the nation’s largest multi-sport athletic festivals with some 70 different sports conducted at more than 50 different venues, primarily in Lincoln and the surrounding area. 

More than 10,000 athletes participated in 2021, with at least one athlete from each of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Events range from popular sports like basketball, wrestling and track & field, to off-the-beaten-path events like bass fishing, fencing and for the first time this year, Esports, which was held inside Pinnacle Bank Arena. The variety of sports helps attract an audience ranging in age from under-five to 90 in a typical year.

The Opening Ceremonies—complete with skydivers, fireworks and a torch-lighting ceremony—adds entertainment value and facilitates camaraderie across the age, geography and sport-preference spectra. In 2021, Lincoln favorite-son Alex Gordon, fresh off his retirement from a stellar 14-year career with Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals, returned to light the caldron.

Once the torch is lit, athletes ardently pursue the podium and a shot at one of the 3,500 gold, silver and bronze medals awarded.

The underlying mission of the Nebraska Sports Council, which conducts the Games, is to promote healthy and active lifestyles, and it is not uncommon to hear of an adult athlete signing up with the goal of training in order to achieve a higher level of physical fitness.

To further accomplish that mission, the Council now conducts a multi-sport Corporate Games, with more than 40 local companies forming teams of employees. They compete for fun, team-building and wellness, and these Games give Lincoln employers another reason to tout Lincoln as a great place to work.

Other events conducted by the Nebraska Sports Council include a youth-only Pumpkin Run, with more than 3,500 pre-school and elementary runners annually, and the WellPower Movement, a free online activity-tracking program that motivates people to be more active and healthy, a program that served its 7,000 especially well when fitness centers and group opportunities closed because of the pandemic.

The Nebraska Sports Council is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that relies almost entirely on sponsorships and donations to conduct fun, family-friendly events for more than
20,000 Nebraskans annually. Learn more at

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