Lacombe proved a little inclement weather wouldn’t stop them from showing their community and Canadian pride as the 2019 Canada Games MNP Torch Relay made its way through the city.
Despite -21 degree Celsius weather – which felt like -33 with the windchill – people stood near every exchange point along the 4.64-kilometre route, with some even joining the torchbearers on their brisk, snowy trek.
The first torchbearer in the community was Reid Wilson, a Lacombe Junior High School student and local hockey player, who said just finding out he was a torchbearer was the greatest night of his life – now capped by carrying the Roly McLenahan Torch itself.
“It was the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of neat – everybody in Lacombe was supporting us and everybody behind us was walking – it was cold outside. It was an amazing day.”
Wilson was featured at a Canada Games assembly at his old school, Terrace Ridge, last week, and because of it, he became a bit of a local celebrity, with a few more supporters lining the streets from the school – something he said he didn’t expect.
While Wilson will miss much, if not the entirety, of the games due to a hockey tournament in Arizona, he hopes to catch some if he has a chance.
He passed the torch off to Larry Michielsen, who is best known in the community as a founding member and current President of the Bill Nielsen Trails Society, as well as the vice-president of the Ski Club. Skills Alberta volunteer of the year Patricia Nelson, 2019 Canada Games mascot creator Mackenzie Van Damme and former Olds Grizzly and Lacombe Athletic Park Association board member Tyler Graham followed, as did City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey and Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins.
Upon return to the Lacombe Memorial Centre for the wrap-up celebration, Calkins said it was one of the coolest things – literally and figuratively – he had ever done.
“I remember back in Ottawa on Oct. 4 when the torch relay kicked off, and here it is, all the way back in my hometown Lacombe,” he said, noting it was also a little surreal to be carrying the torch.
“It’s the manifestation of the Centennial Flame and they’ve kept that flame lit…It’s absolutely fantastic. It was a great day we had – a little windy, a little blustery, but we’re a hardy folk..We’re tough, we’re resilient, we all got through it and it’s great to see so many people here.”
When asked about his thoughts on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not expected to be in attendance during the opening ceremonies of the games, however, Calkins declined to answer.
“I’m not going to get political about this kind of stuff,” he said. “Myself and Earl Dreeshen, as local MPs, we’re going to be spelling each other off. We’re going to be an almost continuous presence at the games. We’ve invited our colleagues from across Canada – if they can make it, great, if not, that’s fine as well, but this is about the athletes, showcasing central Alberta and showing the rest of Canada that Albertans are ready to host these games.
“We have a lot to be proud of.”
Some examples took part in the torch relay, which Canada Games Chair Lyn Radford said was exactly what they wanted to see happen.
“The main thing I find now with the torch relays is we have an opportunity to celebrate each community and today it was Lacombe’s day and we got to celebrate their community builders, who’s been special in their community building and that’s the uniqueness of this whole event,” she said. “That’s the piece I really enjoy with the torch relays.”
She gave credit to the municipalities around Red Deer, including Lacombe and Blackfalds, for their help in the bid for the games. While the games themselves will be held within Red Deer, she said the economic benefit will be felt throughout central Alberta.
“We’ve already heard through the grapevine that hotels are starting to fill up, rooms are starting to get booked in some of these outside areas because Red Deer’s getting booked up. That was our goal for all of this,” she said. “It wasn’t just for Red Deer to enjoy the economic benefit. We wanted the region to enjoy the economic benefit.”
The Canada Games will officially kick off on Feb. 15 in Red Deer.
For more information, visit canadagames.ca/2019.
See the Lacombe Globe’s Feb. 7, 2019 issue for more pictures.