With the 2019 Canada Winter Games just over one week away, City council received an upbeat final update during the regular meeting Monday.
From Feb. 15th until March 3rd, the Games – the largest multi-sport and cultural event for youth in Canada and the largest event to be hosted in Red Deer’s history – will feature more than 150 events in 19 sports.
The Games are expected to welcome up to 3,600 athletes, managers and coaches and more than 100,000 spectators as well.
There will also be a huge arts and cultural festival featuring more than 70 artists and loads of both outdoor and indoor events for folks to take part in.
Lyn Radford, chair of the Canada Winter Games Host Society, encouraged councillors to share their Red Deer stories with everyone during the course of the Games as well. “Let them know what Red Deer is all about,” she said. “Thank your volunteers of course, and enjoy your moment.”
About 5,500 volunteers have also signed on to help out in a myriad of ways, too.
“Certainly there is lots of excitement and lots of pressure to get things ready, but we are very close. From that perspective we are feeling very good,” said Scott Robinson, CEO of the 2019 Canada Winter Games. “We are just excited. People are ready to get things going,” he said.
As mentioned, Red Deerians will also have quite the time with free music at the 52° North Music + Cultural Festival running in tandem with all the exciting sports events.
Artists set to perform include Bif Naked, Brett Kissel, the Strumbellas, Alan Doyle, the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra and more. And it’s all free to the public at the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza downtown.
“That’s our gift to the community,” said Radford, referring to the free admission for Festival activities and events.
Councillors were quick to voice their own enthusiasm for the Games as well.
“I have been so impressed with the work of your committee and I know that reflects all the way down to the boots on the ground that have worked so hard to bring this to pass,” said Coun. Vesna Higham. “I can’t believe it’s 11 days away! Congratulations to the two of you and the hundreds more who have worked with you,” she said.
Coun. Ken Johnston recalled how it was four and one-half years ago that the announcement was formally made that Red Deer had landed the tremendous opportunity to host the Games.
“You were high energy then and you are high energy now,” he said to Radford. “I admire that.
“You’ve constantly been a champion for Red Deer.”
Radford went on to say that whenever there’s been a challenge over the past few years, creative solutions have always risen to the top.
“I think when we got the Games, we were riding a real economic high,” she explained. “About six months later, we were on a very low economic downturn. It concerned us, and we thought it was going to be a challenge.
“One of the things that I learned there is that fundraising and sponsorship are still possible. You might have to just change the animal a bit so that it appeals to people a little more and allows them to get engaged more, too. That is the one thing that the team did very well.
“You come up with a solution that you know in the end is going to be a win-win for everybody.”
Radford also said she wanted to in particular thank City council and City staff for the support shown from the start.
“There have been so many departments that have engaged and done their best to help us solve problems and by just being there. But there is one person that really has been instrumental in making sure that everything has been on time and done well, and that is your retiring City manager Craig Curtis.
“So I’d really like to take the time, Craig, to publicly thank you for everything you have done. You have been phenomenal, and we really appreciate your support for the Games.”
Radford said the team has had Curtis’s support right from the get-go in 2011 when the concept of hosting the Games was first floated.
“We’ve had the encouragement and the support there,” she said. “The Manager has always thought of a way to make it possible, and we certainly thank him for everything he has done for the Games and for this community.
“Because honestly, this is a game changer for our community.”
For complete details on all aspects of the 2019 Canada Winter Games, check out www.canadagames.ca/2019/