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Sense the Excitement

Organizers like to call this weekend’s Aflac Outdoor Games a sensory experience. “We’re going to have the sights, the sounds, the smells,” said Warner Neal, president of Outdoor Events, a Columbus-based company specializing in event management and corporate hospitality. Sights? Those come courtesy of three full days packed with competition, spanning everything from tree climbing to dog agility.

Sounds? Try listening to a high-power chain saw cutting a white pine log.

And smells? Expect a barbecue contest with plenty of teams, including amateur and professional categories.

Celebrating its inaugural year, the Aflac Outdoor Games came from an idea from Neal, whose firm had in the past worked with Stihl Timbersports.

Neal then gained the support of the Columbus Sports Council, and then sponsorship from Aflac.

“It’s going to be three days of fun and getting to see some stuff that you would normally see on TV,” Al Johnson, vice president of marketing services for Aflac, said of the competition.

The games will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPNU. The weekend’s schedule is dominated largely by the Stihl Timbersports Series Collegiate and Professional Championships — events that span stuff like chopping logs and climbing trees.

But there are also dog competitions, including national program dockdogs, in which some local dogs will compete.

The South Commons Softball Complex and Stadium will host the event, relying on temporary structures constructed specifically for the games.

“It’s not just for softball tournaments,” Neal said of the space. “We can do something different with it.”

Neal expects the games to become an annual event, giving the Columbus region consistent national exposure. That long-term impact is paired with the immediate satisfaction that will come with this weekend’s festivities.

“It’s the perfect thing to bring your children to,” said Kent Illges, chairman of the board of the Columbus Sports Council. Kids can look forward to hands-on activities, like Wii games hosted by Best Buy.

But children won’t be the only ones having fun, organizers promise. Each day, multiple activities will be going on simultaneously, so families can bounce back and forth between dog races, barbecue and timbersports.

“I think we’ve got entertainment down there to entertain people from 2 to 92,” Neal said.

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