The general consensus during the MNP Canada Games Torch Relay in Lacombe was that Central Albertans are a hearty bunch.
This consensus was reached after hundreds braved -23 degrees Celsius temperatures (over -30 C with the wind chill) to cheer on torchbearers MP Blaine Calkins, Mayor Grant Creasey, Reid Wilson, Larry Michielsen, Patricia Nelson, Mackenzie Van Damme and Tyler Graham on 4.64 km relay that took them through many of the sites throughout the community.
“It was amazing,” Lacombe student Wilson said. “It was really cold outside so I’m glad everyone came out instead of staying in bed.
“It was probably the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. It is neat. Everyone in Lacombe was supporting us.”
Wilson added he was looking forward to the relay since his mom let him know he was selected earlier in 2018.
Calkins, who finished off the Lacombe leg of the relay at the Lacombe Memorial Centre, said it was great to see so many people brave the cold and he expects big things at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.
“We are 13 sleeps away from the Canada Games starting up, so it is a big thing for Central Alberta. They say it is biggest thing that Central Alberta has ever hosted,” he said. “We are going to put on a really great show and my congratulations goes to the Canada Games Committee.”
Calkins remembers the excitement of Red Deer’s bid over five years ago.
“It was all about getting everyone in the community on the same page, whether they are on the corporate side, political side — the whole thing,” he said. “It takes everyone with a common goal and none of it could have been possible without that leadership and dedication from Lyn (Radford) and the people driving it from the get-go.
“We had a great bid, we won and it has been a flurry of activity since then.”
Calkins didn’t want to comment on the announcement earlier this week that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be unable to attend the Game’s Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 15th but did say that MP Earl Dreeshen and himself would be present throughout the two weeks.
“This is about the athletes and showcasing Central Alberta — showing the rest of Canada that Alberta is ready to host these games,” he said. “We have a lot to be proud of here and I am thrilled for the opportunity this will give to so many people.”
Games Board Chair Lyn Radford said she has noticed that the Games are a big conversation in the region now.
“That was the goal. We wanted to inform the community so everyone would engage as much as they can,” she said. “The neat thing that I find is that we have an opportunity to celebrate each community.
“Today it was Lacombe’s day and we got to celebrate their community builders and who is special. That is the uniqueness of this event and that is the piece I really enjoy.”
Radford was appreciative to all the Central Alberta communities that have offered support to the Games and hopes to see the economic benefit of the event spread throughout the region.
“Rooms are starting to get booked in some of these outside areas because Red Deer is booking up,” she said. “That was one of our goals. It wasn’t just for Red Deer to enjoy the economic benefit — we wanted the whole region to enjoy it.”