Today, Calgary came out in droves to provide a warm welcome to the athletes and coaches from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics by playing host to the third of three events across the country in their honour. The day started in authentic Stampede-city style: with a free pancake breakfast. Shortly before noon, the Parade of Champions began at the far west end of 8th Avenue SW, making its way through the downtown core to Olympic Plaza for a huge rally and concert hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos. Thousands of spectators lined the street to catch a glimpse of Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes, who were carried by car, by wagon, and by six large floats.
Litwiniuk & Company’s own Fred Litwiniuk was a volunteer for the parade, tasked with driving one of the floats.
“We arrived at the City of Calgary Parks Department, near the Stampede grounds, at 5:15 am to set up for the big show,” says Fred. “There we were, six of us, driving these huge John Deere tractors — the same tractors they use in the Stampede rodeo infield — and pulling these floats through the centre of Calgary. Thankfully, it was so early that the streets were quiet.”
The streets would not remain quiet for long, as the staging area of the parade on 11th Street SW filled with volunteers, horses, acrobats, dignitaries, and of course the internationally-renowned Calgary Stampede Show Band. The parade began at 11:30 a.m. lead by Grand Marshall, Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
Fred explains, “We made our way down 8th, and the crowd was amazing. There were so many people, waving flags, cheering, and taking pictures — it’s so great to see that kind of spirit and support for our athletes. Our float had the DJ and speakers on it, so the athletes and the crowd were dancing, and that float was rocking!”
Olympic superstars such as Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, Gilmore Junio and Denny Morrison were all there, and the wild crowd went even wilder as each of them passed by. The white-hatted athletes disembarked at Olympic Plaza, where thousands of spectators cheered them on as they were inducted as honourary Calgarians. Live entertainment on the Plaza included Canadian pop songstress, Alyssa Reid. Later that evening was the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame induction dinner, a sold-out event predicted to have raised over $2M for the Canadian Olympic Committee. But for Fred, the parade was the highlight of the day.
“I was honoured to be part of such a great event, and proud of our great city for hosting it so well,” Fred says. “Our Olympians and Paralympians deserve to be celebrated in a huge way, and that’s exactly what they got in Calgary.”
Litwiniuk & Company’s commitment to community is sustained through investments in people, in relationships, and the promise to make a difference in people’s lives.