It was a historic day for Ponoka as the longest and largest Canada Winter Games torch relay neared its conclusion.
On Feb. 7. Ponoka became the last stop on the nationwide event before the torch makes its way to the host city of Red Deer for a tour and the opening ceremony on Feb. 15. The national youth sporting event, which features 21 different sports, runs until March 3.
A total of 10 torch bearers — Nolan Lee, Jayden Crane, Tegan Poitras, Calvin David, Shawna Pearman, Maddison Pearman, Chad Harden, Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett, Kaeleigh Boston, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ronald Orr — carried the torch from the Stampede Grounds through downtown then made its way past Ponoka Secondary Campus, Centennial Park, Ponoka Elementary and St. Augustine schools before returning to the Stagecoach Saloon for the official ceremony and speeches.
The runners were greeted along the way by residents, friends and family at various points along the route — with many of the torch bearers choosing to join the convey of people gathered behind until the relay’s conclusion — all of whom braved the biting wind and cold temperature in spite of the sunshine.
For Ponoka native and Canada Winter Games alumni, speed skater Maddison Pearman, the opportunity to participate in such a memorable event at home is extra significant.
“Being a part of the relay, in Ponoka and with the games in Red Deer where my home club is, makes it a really special opportunity to be part of something that’s never happened before,” said Pearman, who competed in short-track speedskating at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
“I was around when the torch relay for the (2010) Vancouver Winter Olympics came around, and even though I didn’t get to be in it that helped ignite a flame.”
With the relay soon to come to a close, 2019 Canada Winter Games host society CEO Scott Robinson praised the many central Alberta communities that have provided their support for not only the relay, but for the Games itself.
“The response we received has been phenomenal for both the relay tour through central Alberta and also the Games. The reality is that we couldn’t host this event with that support, as about 85 per cent of our Games volunteers are from central Alberta,” he said.
Scott added the relay, along with the Catch the Spirit events held at schools throughout the region the past few months, are ways to help engage the entire region and make it ‘their’ Games.
PES is super excited for the Canada Games in Red Deer and the torch relay passing by our school around noon on Feb 7 #GoCanadaGo from #Ponoka Thanks @joewhitbread and #Waskasoo for coming to meet us! https://t.co/U5LY0MoKDI
— Ponoka Elementary (@PonokaElem) February 2, 2019
“While we would have liked to bring some of the events to these communities, it just isn’t possible. So, through events like the relay and others, it’s a great chance to involve them and that way they are more likely to come witness some sports and take in other events going on.”
Scott also noted the final touches are being placed on the various venues and volunteers are ready for the Games to kick off.
Visit https://www.canadagames.ca/2019 to find our more information on tickets and the free community events going on.