The arrival of the torch in Red Deer on Friday capped off months of anticipation for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
The torch was lit from the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill in October, and three months ago, the relay started off in Halifax and travelled tthrough another 47 communities.
The torch was on the road for 11o days and 234 people had carried the beacon by the time the flame reached the Canada Games Cauldron in Red Deer.
“Our community has been building towards this day for many, many years. For so long, it was off in the distant future, but it’s officially here and I can say unequivocally that Red Deer is ready and this truly is our moment,” said Mayor Tara Veer, who was among the torch bearers, on Friday morning before the Red Deer leg of the relay began.
Former mayor Morris Flewwelling, another torch bearer, said when he left city council seven years ago, he made sure that council would work toward making a bid to host the games.
He was thrilled to be part of Friday’s relay.
“I am going to wear my headdress when I get there, so that I can celebrate my honorary Indigenous name, Mountain Eagle,” Flewwelling said.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, another torch bearer, said he could feel the excitement in the air.
“This is going to be probably the biggest event that happens in the region, probably during the rest of my lifetime, and I just hope everyone gets an opportunity to get out and participate and see the events,” Wood said.
He said the games will be an eye-opener for Canadian visitors.
“I think that we have a lot to offer here,” Wood said.
Theresa “Corky” Larsen Jonasson, who was the first torchbearer in Red Deer, said she felt a strong sense of pride on relay day.
“I am really glad the Indigenous community is a part of this. It means a lot to the Indigenous youth that are here,” Larsen Jonasson said.
Chief Wilton Littlechild said he was also proud to be part of the relay.
“There used to be an Indian residential school here, so I wanted to offer my run dedicated to the children who came here. After all, the Canada Games are about children,” he said of the residential school that was located near Fort Normandeau, where the torch relay began Friday.