Johnny Vacca held the Empire State Winter Games torch high as he and a fellow runner ran across Walkway Over the Hudson early Tuesday morning, as the torch relay heralding the beginning of the Empire State Winter Games made its way through Dutchess and Ulster counties.
A lifelong Poughkeepsie resident and a volunteer Ambassador at the Walkway, Vacca will is planning to compete in the biathlon at this year’s Empire State Games, which is being held Feb. 1-4 in Lake Placid. Vacca was joined on his run by Clayton DeClemente, an 18-year-old LaGrange resident who will be competing in the speedskating event at the Games. After a brief ceremony at the Park’s Center Observation Area, the torch was passed to Ulster County’s Nicholas Metz and Kev Marlow, who carried it along the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.
A significant portion of the Torch Relay route between NYC and Albany will follow the future route of the Empire State Trail. As a designated Empire State Trail Gateway, Walkway State Park will serve as a central link of the ambitious statewide trail proposed last year by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Regional representatives, New York State Parks, Walkway Over the Hudson and Empire State Games were on hand to speak about the importance of trails, parks and other recreational amenities and events like the Empire State Games toward further expanding the state’s already robust tourism industry.
The 38th annual Empire State Winter Games will kick off on Thursday, February 1 and will run until Sunday, February 4 in Lake Placid. More than 2,500 participants from throughout New York State will compete in 17 different sports during the three-day multi-sport festival.
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Photo: Johnny Vacca carries the torch across the Walkway Over the Hudson with Clayton DeClemente courtesy Irving Solero.