200 days and counting

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Among the organizers at the 200-day countdown celebration for the Arctic Winter Games were, left to right, Kim Mabbitt, Paula Gour, Todd Shafer, Jason Coakwell, Rob Wilkins, Julianne Fuller and Greg Rowe, along with games mascot Kechi.

The South Slave Arctic Winter Games (AWG) are getting closer, and organizers want to make sure people realize that.

On Aug. 28, they held a 200-day countdown event in Hay River for the games, which will take place in both Hay River and Fort Smith from March 18 to 24, 2018.

“It’s certainly to create excitement and awareness for the games for those that are aware that the games coming,” said Greg Rowe, the president of the game’s host society. “I think a good chunk of the population understands that.”

However, Rowe explained that the 200-day countdown event – held in front of the swimming pool and near the new recreation centre under construction – was for more than that.

For one thing, it was designed to encourage people to volunteer for the games.

“So if there are individuals that maybe aren’t signed up or aren’t involved in the games, they have an opportunity to ask some questions and we can hopefully answer them and encourage them to get engaged and participate in the games,” he explained.

Rowe noted there will be a lot more volunteer recruitment over the next six months.

“It’s a realization that the games are coming and ensuring that we do get the people involved, and from that standpoint we were pretty excited,” he said of the 200-day countdown event.

By his estimate, between 450 and 500 people showed up for a free burger or hotdog, to listen to live performers and to talk to organizers.

Rowe said that was a successful turnout, considering the event was on a Monday evening.

“We were pretty pumped to see that many people out,” he said.

There are currently over 50 chairpersons working on various aspects of the games, along with their subcommittees.

More people are being invited to register as volunteers for the many roles needed to stage such an international event, including helping with food services, transportation, timekeeping, security and much more.

Rowe said the Aug. 28 event was also a celebration of the work that’s already gone into the games.

“So there’s more than just creating awareness,” he said. “There’s also to show our appreciation to the staff and the volunteers.”

Rowe said that, based on information from the International Committee of the Arctic Winter Games, from now until the lighting of the torch to open the event is when everything really starts to ramp up.

“We’re pretty excited about where we are,” he said. “Things are really coming together nicely and we’re happy about that, but that being said we do have lots of work yet.”

An earlier event was held in Fort Smith to mark 300 days to the opening of the AWG.

Fort Providence’s Thorsten Gohl, the marketing manager for the games, said there will also be events in both Hay River and Fort Smith to mark 100 days to the AWG.

That will be around Dec. 8, but on two different days in the host communities.

“The main focus is excitement building,” said Gohl of such countdown events. “The main focus is getting awareness that the Arctic Winter Games are coming.”

At the recent Hay River event, he noted the organizer responsible for finding volunteers was on hand to talk to people and tell them what’s going to be happening.

Plus, there were some athletes from Team NWT 2016 on hand to talk to people about the Arctic Winter Games.

“People are asking questions about the Arctic Winter Games,” said Gohl. “So that for me is definitely a great indication that they’re excited about it and they’re getting ready for it.”

And he expects that excitement and interest to grow even more now that people are back from summer holidays and from being out on the land.