The community pulled out all the stops last Thursday to host the Arctic Winter Games site selection committee, culminating in a pep rally that packed the house at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.
“Ten years ago, I walked in here with tears in my eyes,” South Slave bid chair Greg Rowe told a roaring crowd at the arena, referring to the proposal Hay River submitted in 2005 for the 2008 games. “And today, I walked in here with tears in my eyes again. You guys are great.”
Although the committee stopped by early Thursday morning, they moved on right away to Fort Smith, the partner community in the bid for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games. After touring facilities there, they returned to Hay River to complete the evaluation, visiting the Chief Lamalice Complex, Princess Alexandra Middle School, Ecole Boreale, Diamond Jenness Secondary School and the new fire hall before heading over to the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.
“You get a real homey, family feel in a small place,” said committee member Karen Thomson. “When the games come to a small community, the whole town gets involved.”
Fellow committee member Lloyd Bentz said that one of Hay River’s strengths was that many of the locations are so centrally located, within only a few hundred metres of the athletes village which would be housed in the schools.
“We’re looking for everything,” said John Rodda, head of the delegation. “It’s all about the athletes. Our goal is safe, happy, successful.”
Thomson also noted that the level of community support for the bid was remarkable. Out of 221 pages, she said the last 50 or so were letters of support and lists of signatures of people committing to being involved.
“That’s really impressive for a community to have, at this point in the process,” she said.
The group toured Inuvik earlier in the week and should be delivering a verdict some time in March.
The excitement at the pep rally was palpable as hundreds of Hay Riverites packed the stands to cheer on young local athletes — as well as emcees Eddie Smith and Steve Campbell — playing their part in the spectacle.
Kelden Hendrickson, who joined his classmates at Ecole Boreale in demonstrating the use of the track for snowshoe races.
“Yeah, I want it to be here,” he said of potentially hosting the games. “It would be fun.”
Perhaps more verbose but no less heartfelt, Mayor Andrew Cassidy expressed the same sentiment at a stop at Diamond Jenness.
“It’s been a fantastic tour,” he said, adding that some of the highlights for him had been the opportunity to showcase the incredible community spirit in the South Slave. “This is a real grassroots community effort. It’s not one person’s pet project, it means so much to people in both Fort Smith and Hay River.”