Torch runners participate in the final leg of the torch relay as the Canada Winter Games kick off Friday. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

WATCH: Canada Winter Games are finally here

Final leg of torch relay kicked off at Fort Normandeau

The 2019 Canada Winter Games are officially here with the final leg of the torch run kicking off at Fort Normandeau Friday morning.

“Our community has been building towards this day for many, many years and for so long it was often in the distant future but it’s officially here and I can say unequivocally that Red Deer is ready and this truly is our moment,” said Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer.

Today Red Deer welcomes thousands of Canadians to celebrate the Games arrival, which run through to March 2nd.

“The excitement can be felt around the city – just incredible community spirit, volunteerism, sponsors, donors and businesses have come onside. There’s energy and excitement in our city and I feel confident that our community will pull off the best Canada Games for the 27th edition of the (event).”

In October, the torch was lit on Parliament Hill from the Centennial Flame.

“Today we bring the torch home. It’s gone to 48 communities across the True North and 11 previous Canada Games communities,” continued Veer.

From Fort Normandeau, torchbearers headed to other places in the city including the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame among others before it heads to the Enmax Centrium for the official opening ceremonies.

Among the many people participating at today’s start of the torch run was Chief Willie Littlechild.

“It’s a very great honour for me to welcome all of you here but also to participate in a special way. I want to acknowledge that on this site many years ago there was a residential school and I want to dedicate my portion of the run to the children who were in those schools, to their spirit,” he said.

“It’s our tradition, so as we lift the flame of honour I want to dedicate it to them,” he said, adding that he also wanted to thank the City of Red Deer for hosting the Games.

Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood said the County is so proud to be a part of sponsoring these Games.

“We are thrilled to see the years of preparation finally come to fruition. We recognize the excitement that is now going to happen in the next two weeks as we have people from across Canada join us and we are so excited that we can in fact be part of this process.”

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