LITTLE CURRENT—Last Tuesday Little Current hosted the Pan Am Torch Relay as part of the cross-Canada relay leading up to the Toronto Pan American Games starting on July 10.

“I would like to welcome everyone to the Pan Am Torch Relay,” said Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin at Tuesday’s celebration in Little Current marking the torch relay’s stop on Manitoulin. “This relay is in tribute to the strength of our communities as we rally to support our athletes who are preparing to compete in the Toronto Pan American Games. The Northeast Town is proud to host this segment of the relay and we trust that you will find the experience memorable and fun.”

From left, Manitoulin Pan Am Torch Relay torchbearers Alicia McCutcheon, Ivan Wheale, Lauren  Abotossaway, Ed Simon, Lisa Winkel and Kelly O’Hare stand on the Little Current docks.
From left, Manitoulin Pan Am Torch Relay torchbearers Alicia McCutcheon, Ivan Wheale, Lauren Abotossaway, Ed Simon, Lisa Winkel and Kelly O’Hare stand on the Little Current docks.

“These torch relays will be among the most exciting events leading up to the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games as they set the stage for the largest sporting event ever held in Canada,” continued Mayor MacNevin. “The Pan Am Games are the world’s third largest international multi-sport games—they are only surpassed in size and scope by the Olympic summer games and the Asian Games. The Torch Relay for the Pan Am Games is a 41-day journey that will stop in more than 130 communities. The relay will include more than 3,000 torchbearers and cover more than 5,000 km on the road and 15,000 km in the air. The torch relay provides a powerful, personal opportunity for our community to feel the emotion, excitement and significance of the Pan Am flame. The Toronto 2015 Games will involve 16 municipalities stretching from Oshawa to Welland, and will take place from July 10 to 26.”

Pan Am 3

Mayor MacNevin introduced a hoop dancing demonstration presented by Noojmowin Teg Health Centre. Noojmowin Teg also provided face painting for youth during the relay stop event.

Hoop dancer entertains the crowd that came out for the event
Hoop dancer entertains the crowd that came out for the event

“The aluminum torch stands 65 centimeters high and weighs 1.2 kilograms (roughly the same weight as a baseball bat),” explained Mayor MacNevin, following the demonstration. “With a burn time of 10 to 12 minutes, the flame can withstand winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour and is visible in all kinds of weather conditions.”

During the activities on the main stage and throughout downtown Little Current, which was closed off for the day, the torch arrived at the Rendezvous Pavilion and was passed to Expositor editor Alicia McCutcheon. Ms. McCutcheon then lit the torch of Ivan Wheale.

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“Throughout his career, Ivan has held 93 solo exhibitions and his art work has been exhibited in 117 group exhibitions,” said Mayor MacNevin of Little Current’s community torchbearer. “His primary mediums are oil and watercolours. His work hangs in 42 public and corporate collections, including the Royal Collection and the Dean’s Collection at Windsor Castle in England, the government of Ontario, the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Arts Pavilion ‘Man and His World’ in Montreal. He also has numerous awards for his artistic achievements acknowledged by Laurentian University, the Ontario Ministry of Culture, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canadian Council.”

Pan Am 3 Crystal and Special O's onstage

Pan Am 4 Crystal Shawanda with community living

Mr. Wheale, escorted by Pan Am Torch Relay staff, arrived downtown to the mainstage where he passed the touch to Lauren Abotossaway of Aundeck Omni Kaning (AOK). The torch made its way along Water Street, being passed off to UCCM Anishnaabe Police Officer Ed Simon, then to Kelly O’Hare at Sims Street and finally to Lisa Winkel of Espanola.

The event concluded with a concert from Juno Award winner Crystal Shawanda.

“It was a huge honour just to be asked out of so many people,” said Mr. Wheale of carrying the torch. “It was wonderful. I put some time in ahead for time training, but it turned out I didn’t have to run. When I was first handed the torch I could only see a few people, but then when I turned the corner to downtown I was so surprised to see a mass of people. It was a great day.”

Mr. Wheale’s daughter June and her husband visited from Edmonton to attend the momentous event.

Local businesses lined the street
Local businesses lined the street

Thirty-one year old Lauren Abotossaway was selected by her community for the walk after overcoming a health crisis two years ago.

“I had a health scare a few years ago,” explained Ms. Abotossaway. “I had a major stroke and lost my ability to walk and talk.”

Ms. Abotossaway, a lover of sports, was able to overcome her stroke and was proud to be able to represent her community of AOK and carry the torch.

Ed Simon was chosen by his community, while Kelly O’Hare overcame an injured foot to participate and Alicia McCutcheon was thrilled to be selected and be a part of the historic event. Lisa Winkel was self nominated, inspired by her daughter who carried the Olympic flame.

Six-year-old Maddy Latua-Aro colours a photo after having her face painted as part of the Pan Am relay activities in Little Current.
Six-year-old Maddy Latua-Aro colours a photo after having her face painted as part of the Pan Am relay activities in Little Current.

From Little Current, the torch made its way to Sudbury and east across the North, making stops in areas such as Sturgeon Falls and Algonquin Park and then looping back west towards Toronto after a stop in Ottawa and concluding July 10 with the dramatic lighting of the cauldron at the 2015 Pan Am Games opening ceremony in downtown Toronto.

To see the full list of Pan Am Torch Relay stops or for more information about the Toronto 2015 games, visit www.toronto2015.org.