Olympic torch to arrive in Red Deer on Jan. 15, to much fanfare

The entertainment is booked, the running suits have been distributed, now the only thing Red Deer needs is for the Olympic torch to arrive to kick off the celebrations. The Olympic torch comes to Red Deer on Jan. 15, with special ceremonies set for Westerner Park from 5 to 9 p.m.

Pete Weddell

The entertainment is booked, the running suits have been distributed, now the only thing Red Deer needs is for the Olympic torch to arrive to kick off the celebrations.

The Olympic torch comes to Red Deer on Jan. 15, with special ceremonies set for Westerner Park from 5 to 9 p.m.

The event will include the lighting of a mini-cauldron, visits from past Olympians and current Olympians’ families and a host of performers.

“We’re really excited with how things are going right now,” said Lyn Radford, who is the chair of the Red Deer Olympic Torch Relay Community Celebration Committee. “We’ve really gone out to make this extra special.”

She said she hopes not only Red Deer residents come to the event, but also people from all of the surrounding Central Albertan communities.

As part of the festivities, Corb Lund and St. James Gate will perform and there will be a show put on by major torch run sponsors RBC and Coke. There will be ice carvings, a sugar shack by the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta in Red Deer, warming tents and six fire pits. Figure skater Jamie Salé is expected to make an appearance, along with skeleton athlete Mellisa Hollingsworth’s family and others.

The event is free but there will be a $3 charge for parking. People will also be able to take the bus to the event from park and rides set up at Parkland Mall and Notre Dame High School that will go continuously from 4:30 to after 9 p.m. An optional silver collection will be taken on the buses, with proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House. Next wee the committee will release the route the torch will take through the Red Deer area.

Pete Weddell of Red Deer will be one of the people carrying the torch for 300 metres along the route around Ponoka. He is one of dozens of local runners who will take part in the Central Alberta section of the run.

“I think it’s tremendous that (organizers) have made it inclusive with so many people. It’s a wonderful thing,” Weddell said. “I’m one of 12,000, which is a fairly small ratio. It’s my participation in something that I will probably cherish until I am no longer able to be cognizant of it.”

His only worry at the moment is a nasty split fibula — one of the two bones in the leg between the knee and ankle — that he hurt while playing hockey that he hopes heals in time. No matter what, he plans to do the run.

Weddell was born in Red Deer and grew up here. He left for 20 years to go to college, work as a Fish and Wildlife officer and park ranger, before coming back to work for the city on the parks system in the 1980s, from which he has now retired.

Weddell will be joined along the route by Riley Collins, a Grade 9 student at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.

“It’s really exciting,” Collins said. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”

He said it is a little nerve-racking all at the same time because he is concerned he might fall during his portion of the run, even though he knows it’s not likely.

Collins is on the 9A basketball team, was the quarterback on the football team and has received awards for his involvement in sports. “Sports is pretty much my life,” Collins said.

Most of his family from Edmonton, as well as his great-grandparents from Ontario, his mother Tracy Collins and many of the people she works with at RBC Dominion Securities will cheer Collins on in January.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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