Williams Lake is a buzz with all things hockey as the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour has descended on the city’s downtown core for a weekend of festivities.
Things got underway Saturday morning, with a welcome to traditional Secwepmec territory by Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie who said it was an honour to celebrate the game of hockey and its players.
“I salute all of our hockey parents, grandparents, moms and dads, aunts and uncles that participate in this beautiful sport,” Louie said. “I have been following hockey for over 40 years. I currently have a grandson that plays rep and one in house so it’s been exciting times.”
Thanking all of the community volunteers who helped organize the two-day festival, Louie acknowledged the hundreds of hours they put in to make an event “this size,” possible.
After Louie led an honour song, Esk’etemc elder Francis Johnson Sr., whose son Francis plays for the Stampeders, and WLIB member Leonard Supernault performed two men’s dances.
Before they got started, Francis told the crowd he plays and loves hockey.
“I’m 67 years old and I want to inspire young people to be active,” he said, with a big grin.
Four city blocks are blocked off to traffic and several activities are underway with hundreds of local residents of all ages out wearing hockey jerseys or one of the free Hometown Hockey jerseys being given out at the Scotia Bank tent.
Rogers Hometown Hockey co-host Tara Slone interviewed NHL alumni Kirk McLean and Jyrki Lumme on the main stage for a Hot Stove show, while earlier on Lumme was inside the Scotia Bank tent signing autographs with a lineup outside the doorway.
Hana Eastmond performed in the early afternoon and will be back again for another performance. One of the songs she sang, she wrote for former Williams Lake resident Jack Simpson’s fly fishing for veterans program he offered in the Cariboo a few years ago.
There’s lots to do down at the festival site, which will be open until 6 p.m.
The Rotary Club of Williams Lake is selling hot dogs and burgers, with all proceeds going to Williams Lake Minor Hockey.
Small aspiring mechanics can try changing a tire at the OK Tire Zamboni site, while there are several stations for little people to try shooting with a hockey stick, try a hand at ball hockey, or even rope tying at the Williams Lake Stampede booth.
With temperatures hovering above zero it’s certainly not as cold as it was during Christmas and New Year’s and there are several warm spots inside tents around the festival site as well.
On Saturday evening, Slone will drop the puck on the Stampeders versus Kelowna Sparta game at 8:30 p.m. at the Cariboo Memorial Complex.
During the game the two new murals created by local artist Dwayne Davis will be on display, as well as on Sunday during the Stampeders’ second game against Kelowna.
Slone will be joined by co-host Ron MacLean for a pre-game broadcast at 3:30 p.m. on the main stage Sunday afternoon before the Canadiens versus Canucks game gets underway in Montreal. The game will be shown on large screen TVs at the festival site.