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Hay River ready for Arctic Winter Games 2018

After years of planning, organizers are ready for the start of the South Slave Arctic Winter Games in Hay River and Fort Smith – now just days away.

"It's long days and lots of action, lots of activity, but it's exciting because you're seeing the fruits of the labour happening," said Todd Shafer, the general manager of the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games Host Society. "Lots of positive things coming to fruition after two years of planning, or more in some situations."

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Greg Rowe, left, the president of the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games Host Society, and Todd Shafer, the society's general manager, are both ready for the games to begin – under the slogan Find Your Power.

Greg Rowe, president of the host society, also said everything is ready.

"It's come together nicely," he said. "I think right now it's still pretty stressful. We're implementing the plans that have been built and policies and everything else."

The first major event of the games will be the opening ceremonies on March 18 in the new recreation centre in Hay River.

The opening ceremonies and the March 24 closing ceremonies in Hay River, and a cultural gala in Fort Smith, are all being produced by Patrick Roberge Productions Inc.

"I think it's going to be a fantastic show," said Shafer of the opening ceremonies. "The company that we've brought on board has done previous Arctic Winter Games. They've done some Canada Games. They also most recently were involved with the halftime show at the Grey Cup. They've got a significant amount of experience."

The Grey Cup halftime show in Ottawa made international headlines when country music star Shania Twain was brought to the stage by dogsled.

Rowe predicted the opening ceremonies in Hay River will be memorable.

"It's certainly raising the bar for opening and closing ceremonies in the smaller communities," he said of Patrick Roberge Productions Inc. "They're doing a fantastic job."

Shafer noted that, as of March 9, the games had reached its target of 1,500 signed-up volunteers in Hay River and Fort Smith combined.

"So that's fantastic," he said, adding that people can still sign up to volunteer.

Rowe noted there will also be more volunteers among people travelling to the South Slave for the games.

In all, just under 1,900 athletes are expected for the games – with about 1,100 competing in Hay River and the remainder in Fort Smith.

All the athletes will be in Hay River for both the opening and closing ceremonies.