Villanova University to Host Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival for 35th Consecutive Year

Athletes embrace during the flag fotball competition at the 2022 Fall Festival

VILLANOVA, Pa. (October 18, 2023) – Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Fall Festival is returning to Villanova University November 3-5, marking the 35th consecutive year the event has been held at the University. More than 1,000 athletes, 400 coaches and 5,000 volunteers representing the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will join for what is the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world.

Fall Festival, which is led by Villanova’s Special Olympics Committee and assisted by Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA), will feature competitions in bocce, flag football, long-distance running/walking, powerlifting, soccer and volleyball and will also highlight a number of new initiatives aimed at improving the experience of both athletes and spectators.

The theme of this year’s Fall Festival, “Together as a team, our dreams are closer than they seem!” intends to draw from all human beings’ ability to dream, figuratively and literally, and foster an atmosphere in which everyone’s dreams and aspirations can come to fruition.

“Fall Festival is incredibly meaningful, because it is a collaboration of the work of Villanova students, the University, SOPA and volunteers to create a weekend of celebration and opportunity for the athletes and to advance the mission of inclusion,” said Moira Horan ’24 CLAS, Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival 2023 director. “We are so thankful for the partnerships, teamwork and extraordinary effort from everyone involved that make this event so unique and special.”

Competitions begin on Friday, November 3, with bocce, flag football, long-distance running/walking, soccer and volleyball, all beginning at 1:30 p.m. The powerlifting competition will begin Friday at 2 p.m. All six sports continue Saturday, with all but powerlifting wrapping up competitions on Sunday. Opening Ceremonies will be held at the Finneran Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. on Friday with doors open to the public at 6:40 p.m. 

The weekend will also feature numerous “Fall Fest Firsts,” intended to improve the athlete and spectator experience. Ramps and access points will be set up to increase accessibility throughout campus, and inclusion zones near competition areas will provide space for sensory breaks and mindfulness. The Victory Jamboree, set to be held on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Mendel Field, will be outdoors for the first time in both high and low-sensory tents. Non-competitive sporting options, such as basketball and pickleball, are scheduled throughout the weekend in coordination with Unified Sports. Additionally, a focus on nutrition and community will be reflected by food trucks and live music at the Opening Ceremonies, in collaboration with Villanova’s Campus Activities Team. The long-standing Healthy Athletes initiative has been expanded this year through Setting Up for Success, aimed to increase opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

For spectators and families, “Ask Me Booths” around campus aim to help increase communication and a new interactive SOPA app features event schedules, maps and the ability to send virtual cheers to athletes, coaches and volunteers. Additionally, for the first time, the Villanova Special Olympics alumni reception will be held at the Inn at Villanova.

More than 5,000 volunteers from the Villanova University student body and the surrounding community are expected to participate in the event in 2023, serving in numerous capacities such as officials, athlete escorts, award presenters and administrative support services. Volunteers from across the state are welcome and spectators are encouraged to visit competition venues on or near campus to support the athletes. To volunteer, please email On-site volunteer registration is also available throughout the weekend at the volunteer registration tent on Sheehan Beach Field, the corner of Lancaster and N. Ithan avenues.

About Special Olympics Pennsylvania: Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) provides year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit