Northwest ready to welcome the torch

THE NISGA’A tradition of messengers travelling from village to village carrying important news played out last week in the Nass Valley as the word spread about the appearance of the Olympic torch in the valley on Feb. 1. Here

GET READY for a jam-packed day full of activities when the Olympic torch relay arrives in Terrace and the surrounding area.

On Feb. 1 the day will start in Terrace at 9 a.m with a pancake breakfast at the Skeena Mall parking lot at the Salvation Army truck.

Celebrations will begin at the Olympic Celebration stage in front of city hall at noon, and relay sponsor booths will be set up for the public. There will be free toques and Olympic mittens given away on the day, and a draw for youth to win a 30” tall stuffed Olympic mascot Quatchi. Giveaways will start around 11 a.m., and ballots and the draw box will be located near the celebration stage.

The winner of the mascot naming competition will be announced at the celebration stage too, and the Skeena Jr band will perform.

The Olympic Torch Relay will begin on Keith Ave. at Wal-Mart, and the flame will be welcomed by Kitselas First Nations dancers. The relay will then progress to the celebration stage in front of city hall around 2 p.m. where the Sweet Adelines will sing O Canada.

There will then be entertainment, speeches from local dignitaries, and performances by Playback, a local youth rock band and the Skeena Jr. cheerleaders.

Torchrunners will then run the flame through town to the railway car on the millennium trail a little before 3 p.m.

The torch will then travel to Kitsumkalum, where Sarah Peden and Jordan Wesley will be carrying the flame starting at 3:13 p.m. Sarah will run from the Kalum River bridge to the House of Sim-oi-Ghets and the totem pole there. Matriarch Mildred Roberts has been chosen as an honorary elder firekeeper, and will perform a short welcoming and blessing ceremony of the Olympic flame as it comes into the community. Wesley will then take the torch for 300 metres.

Nina Peden, chair of the Kitsumkalum organizing relay committee, said she hopes everybody gets a spot along the route to cheer the runners on. People are asked to bring their drums, banners and noise makers to welcome the torch relay into the community.

A celebration will occur in the Kitsumkalum Hall right after the relay, with a welcome by the hereditary chief, councillors, and the local MP and MLA. Those attending the sold-out celebration will see First Nations dancers and a local “Two Whale Story” performed by Thornhill Elementary students, as well as a slideshow presentation showcasing different athletes in the community.

The torch relay will then move to New Aiyansh, starting at the Nisga’a Lisms Government Building at 4 p.m. and ending at the community hall. Acting government president Kevin McKay and Justin Mercer will be the torchbearers for the community. Dr. Jospeh Gosnell was chosen as the honorary elder firekeeper, and will welcome the Olympic flame into the community through a traditional Nisga’a ceremony. There will be a big fireworks display at the community hall after the last torchrunner has arrived there.

Curt Johnson, member of the 2010 Olympic Torch Committee in the Nass Valley, said the committee is encouraging youth to run behind the torch as it passes through the community.

“We’re really looking forward to the events up here, and we’re really pushing it onto the youth because it’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” Johnson said. “It will really inspire them to set goals and have dreams.”

The gathering on Feb. 1 will begin at 10 a.m. at the New Aiyansh Rec Centre, where a full day is planned – a Nisga’a chiefs ceremony, cultural dance performances, bands, and school performances. A tribal picnic will end off the day, with all four Nisga’a villages sharing dishes with each other.

But the Nisga’a have been celebrating the arrival of the torch run well in advance. Starting Jan. 22, the Nisga’a nation kicked off a 10-day marathon of sports, recreation and activities as a countdown to the arrival of the Olympic Flame. These activities include a fitness program, basketball tournaments, soccer in the snow, tug of war and snow shoe racing. Also planned was a Nisga’a prince and princess contest, essay and poster contests, pancake breakfasts, cook-offs, a gospel music festival and battle of the bands. All events are open to the public.

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