Strengthening connections with lasting impressions

By DAWN BOOTH, Managing Editor of Connect Weekly

Spectators watch tennis teams compete for the Games in Timberlea on August  10. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly.

Spectators watch tennis teams compete for the Games in Timberlea on August 10. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly.

Last week, I had some doubts. I was rooting for everyone in the community who was busily preparing for the 2015 Wood Buffalo Western Canada Summer Games. However, I wondered if the sight of our downtown core and the endless construction zones were going to poorly represent the vibrant place I called home.

Like many residents, I didn’t have the full picture of the behind-the-scenes planning laid out for me. It wasn’t until a few days before the kick-off that it seemed as if everything was transformed overnight; the revealing of Snye Park and the final touches of street sweepings, Games’ stickers on planters and flowers overflowing in pots. I knew it was time.

August 7 was just a few days later, the day of the Opening Ceremonies. As I walked down to the field at the Shell Place, a sense of pride sent shivers down my spine. Anxiously waiting to make the entrance, I looked around. I was surrounded by the smiling faces of fellow torch bearers for the Games with a helicopter hovering above, and thousands watching. The Ceremonies were coming to a close.

The audience and athletes were moments away from watching the official Western Canada Summer Games’ cauldron being lit and a kaleidoscope of fireworks was soon to take over our Northern sky.

The audience and athletes were moments away from watching the official Western Canada Summer Games’ cauldron being lit and a kaleidoscope of fireworks was soon to take over our Northern sky.

I was honoured to be play a small part in this historic moment. And as I stood there waiting for the Games’ torch to make its final leg, I could feel the positive energy pouring out from all around me.

We – the Games’ organizers, volunteers, athletes, performers, and residents – all shared a revolutionary emotion; almost as if it were instantaneously. We were making history, and this moment would last in the minds of over 14,000 visitors from across Western Canada.

The enthusiasm and feel-good rapport on our region has continued to be demonstrated throughout the Games’ this far. Residents are saying our home has never looked so beautiful, and; conversations with visitors to Games’ organizers, community ambassadors and volunteers have reassured us that we are indefinitely surprising many who have come to here for the first time.

We’ve had many visitors share how they: “never thought Fort McMurray would be so beautiful,” and it’s not what they expected it to be.

One of our guests I had the pleasure of meeting was Assistant Coach of Team Manitoba’s tennis team Misa Tennant. She shared how she felt the Opening Ceremonies were “unbelievable” and she “doesn’t think any future Games will beat that.”

What others have to say about our region is important, especially when it’s positive.

To the Games’ staff, municipal employees and volunteers who have put countless hours in to all of it, this is the response they deserve to hear.

What others have to say about our region is important, especially when it’s positive. But what’s most important is that we are making visitors feel welcomed. And, not just to our Games’ visitors, but to everyone visiting our region on a daily basis. CW