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Torch Relay festivities ramp up

Cheer on the torchbearers and take in the free events Feb. 4


n keeping with the symbolism of the Olympic torch - peace and unity for all mankind - the Squamish Torch Relay committee is sending out an open to join in a celebration for the entire community.

As the torch makes its way into town Feb. 4, on its 98th day across the country, Squamish is planning a party for 5,000 with dancing, singing, music, Logger Sports displays, fireworks, Olympic athletes and the lighting of a cauldron.

"I want to encourage the community to come out because it's going to be a fabulous event," said District of Squamish director of recreation, parks and tourism Bob Kusch.

"It's a major event that's going to have a lot of action and a lot of life to it and hopefully will culminate in some excitement."

On Thursday Feb. 4 sometime during the evening, the torch will be carried through Valleycliffe.

The Torch Relay celebrations start on Thursday Feb. 4 at 3:30 p.m. with the puck dropping at a friendly hockey game between the Squamish Wolfpack and a rival team out of Bloomington, Minnesota.

Squamish Rotary has decided to host the American team, which promotes literacy alongside sportsmanship.

Margo Dent, a volunteer, media liaison for the local Torch Relay organizing committee, said the game is in keeping with Olympic ideals.

"[It] shares a lot of the Olympic values in terms of team spirit and camaraderie and bringing nations together and their additional message of literacy - absolutely we welcome them."

Then, starting at 8 a.m. on Friday Feb. 5, the torch will be at the Logger Sports park, before heading downtown.

According to a Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee member who wishes to remain unnamed, the torch will pass by every elementary and high school Squamish by 10 a.m. before heading north on Highway 99 to arrive at the Whistler Olympic Park by noon.

At around 5:30 p.m. musicians Cam Salay and Dana Marie take to the Brennan Park parking lot. The Welh Tima Kexwusem First Nations dance group kick off the official celebrations at 6 p.m. with a welcoming ceremony.

Then G. Jogi Daduwalia and the Squamish Bhangra Crew will perform traditional East Indian dance numbers. Follow up musical acts will include Bitterly Devine, DJ Mat the Alien and a local children's choir directed by Anne Thomson.

The West Coast Lumberjack Show will be at the celebration, as will half pipe snowboarder Dominique Vallee and skeleton athlete Michelle Bartleman.

Approximately halfway through the evening's celebrations, the cauldron will be lit by a mystery local chosen for his or her special contributions to the community.

The relay festivities will wrap up around 8 p.m. with a fireworks display by Kris Keys.

The organizing committee is planning for approximately 33 per cent of local to out to the Brennan Park events, a modest figure by some standards, said Kusch.

"In some communities across Canada, they've had as many as 80 per cent of the residents show up. We are doing all of our work based on about 5,000. It could be greater, it could be smaller. If it's a torrential downpour, God only knows."

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