Buchanan hosting viewing event for Roberts

BUCHANAN — The community of Buchanan will gather at the Common July 31 to watch its own Hannah Roberts go for the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

A watch party with a jumbotron, local organizations and vendors, will begin at 7 p.m. at the Commons, which is located behind Pears Mill in Buchanan. Competition in BMX Freestyle, which is an official Olympic sport for the first time, is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. It is being carried by NBC Sports, which owns the rights for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Roberts is the favorite to win the inaugural gold medal in BMX Freestyle, which will be contested at Ariake Urban Sports Park, alongside BMX racing and skateboarding.

Because fans are not being allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics as the world continues to battle COVID-19, Hannah’s mother Betty was trying to gather family and friends to watch her daughter compete. That smaller gathering morphed into a communitywide watch party under the stars just outside of downtown Buchanan.

“We started planning our own personal watch party,” Betty said. “We reached out to the City of Buchanan. We as well spoke to the disciplines for USA Cycling for Team USA. The director helped us get in contact with NBC and they have been helping us to organize with other families so that athletes, when they leave the country, know there is going to be support here while they are participating at the Olympics.”

Roberts said the idea was to have all disciplines in all sports to have their own watch parties so they could watch their loved ones on the big screen and enjoy it together.

“So, the City of Buchanan was able to secure the Common area right behind the library for our event,” she said. “We have verified through NBC Sports that this event will be televised since there is an Olympic athlete who is geared toward the gold medal. We will be opening it up to anyone who wants to come out and watch the Olympics live right in downtown Buchanan.”

Roberts said they are still seeking community groups who may want to raise some funds by selling items, and food vendors who want to sell their items as well.

Among those who have already committed is Buchanan’s assistant wrestling coach and chef Tim Carrigan, who will be bringing his Woodstock Bug, and Taqueria Don Chepe. The city is also recruiting food vendors.

“We have been in contact with the high school to do some fundraising if they would like,” said Roberts, whose daughter is a 2019 graduate of Buchanan High School. “We wanted to give back to the community. Hannah’s efforts, while she was in the Buchanan, were always community-based.”

All of the money raised will be donated back to the groups Hannah was involved in.

Those who plan to attend should bring their own lawn chairs as the Common is a grassy area without permanent seating. Roberts said the watch party will probably wrap up around midnight, as the women will compete first in BMX Freestyle and the men will follow.

Roberts continues a rich history of Olympians from Buchanan.

Marcia Ingram Jones-Smoke, a sprint canoer, competed in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal in track and field in the K-1 500-meter event in the 1964 games.

Her husband, William Smoke, finished fourth in the second repechage event in the K-4 100-meters at the 1964 games, also held in Tokyo. Jones” won Jeff Smoke finished seventh in the K-2 1000-meter semifinals at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, while her sister, the late Sperry Rademaker placed seventh in the K-2 500-meter event in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Southwest Michigan’s other Olympian was Dowagiac’s Chris Taylor, won the bronze medal in wrestling in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

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