Olympic torch draws near

While the flame will only pass through Ponoka, businesses and schools are gearing up for their own festivities.

By Jasmine Franklin

The Olympic flame will ignite community spirit through Ponoka Jan. 15, and as the day gets closer the runners gear up and plans get finalized.

While the flame will only pass through the town, businesses and schools are gearing up for their own festivities.

“It’s going to be our Olympic Sports Day,” said Larry Cook, principal of Diamond Willow Middle School. “The kids will dress in Team Canada colors with our Canadian flags (supplied by the Town of Ponoka) and we will encourage them to cheer the flame on.”

Ponoka’s Ashley Wilton, 16, is scheduled to carry the torch around 4 p.m. from the Town Hall to Diamond Willow.

“I’ve had to try on my track suit like three times for my family,” she said giggling. “I’m getting pretty excited.”

Nicole Fisher, RBC advisor of corporate communications, said there will be a “sea of blue” cheering on the torch bearers, meaning, a squad fully equipped with balloons and other items will be present. RBC is the official torch relay sponsor.

Lori Kirchner of Ponoka continues to get excited as her day to carry the torch nears.

“Just to be part of the Olympic experience is such an honor,” Kirchner said. “Every day that gets closer just make you say, ‘Ahhhhh!’ It’s so exciting.”

Kirchner will run in Innisfail Jan. 16 at 7:30 a.m. She continues to run every morning to prepare for her opportunity.

Torch route

As of Dec. 29, the torch is scheduled to arrive at Highway 2A and 61 Avenue at 3:54 p.m. It will then travel south to 53 Avenue and continue east to 51 Street; south on 51 Street to 48 Avenue where there is scheduled to stop at Diamond Willow Middle School around 4:12 p.m.

Cindy Bowie, director of community services, said that although plans have not yet been finalized, Mayor Larry Henkleman is expected to say a few words but because Ponoka is not a celebration stop, there will be no following festivities.

The torch will then continue west on 48 Avenue to Highway 2A and continue south to the lights on Highway 53 around 4: 38 p.m. that will mark the end of the Olympic Torch Relay.

Celebration spots

Though Ponoka will host the relay briefly, other communities are hosting celebratory events for the torch relay.

The torch will pass through Maskwa Park in Hobbema at 3 p.m. before heading to Ponoka and the community has festivities lined up.

Blaine Calkins, Wetaskiwin MP, and the four band chiefs of Hobbema will all be present to say a few words.

“This doesn’t happen often so we are really excited,” said Anne Wildcat, Maskwacis Olypmic torch relay committee chair.

There will also be an elders’ blessing, and a youth drum group that will play a few songs along with the speeches all taking place in front of the Ermineskin Junior High.

The 106-day relay will travel through more than 1,030 communities, 73 of those within Alberta.

Routes and times are susceptible to change; for updated information visit www.vancouver2010.com