BC Games opening ceremonies promise to be magical

There’s room for a huge crowd at Laketown Ranch, so head on out and enjoy the party. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Huge stage dwarfs even the biggest names, but they enjoy performing there. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)
Spoken work genius Shane Koyczan is a legend in his own time. (Submitted)
Asani will present a special version of ‘O Canada’ so be ready for it. (Submitted)
It will be a great night for everyone, so pack the family into the car and get on up to Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

The Cowichan 2018 BC Summer Games will kick-off on Thursday, July 19 with an opening ceremony that will inspire, delight and entertain.

Everyone is invited, and it’s free!

It’s at Lake Cowichan’s Laketown Ranch, which will welcome country superstar Eric Church to the Sunfest Country Music Festival in a few weeks’ time.

It’s a great chance to see and enjoy the amenities at the Ranch if you’ve never visited before, and to experience what happens when Cowichan comes out to party. Not to mention a chance to see top talent with no ticket price.

With Shane Koyczan and his band The Short Story Long, Asani, and local dancers, and pipers and drummers, members of the public can join more than 4,500 athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers as everyone enjoys a night to remember.

“Our volunteers have been hard at work for months planning all aspects of the opening ceremonies to create lifetime memories,” said Jennifer Woike, president of Cowichan 2018 BC Summer Games.

“To make this a truly community event, the opening ceremony is free for everyone to attend — regardless of their involvement with the Games.”

The event will feature a full-scale athletes parade, so have your cameras and phones ready.

“Laketown Ranch is hosting the opening ceremony, so there is lots of room for the community to come out, take in the entertainment and cheer on the athletes as they enter with their zones,” says Kirsten Schrader, director, ceremonies and special events. “Entertainment begins at 6 p.m. to help get everyone in the celebration mood before the athletes parade starts at 7 p.m. Asani, from Edmonton, will sing the most memorable version of ‘O Canada’ many people will ever hear.”

Leading the professional performers, Koyczan is one of the greatest spoken-word artists in Canadian history.

He is the winner of the US Slam Poetry Championship and the Canadian Spoken Word Olympics and has a long list of national and international awards and honorary titles under his belt. (Outstanding Book of the Year 2014, Best Spoken Word Album 2012, CBC Radio National Poetry Face-off 2004, Honorary Fellowship of the Literary & Historical Society, Dublin Ireland 2014 and many more).

In a realm where poets rarely intersect with stardom, the Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics introduced the world to Shane Koyczan. With a collective “wow” across Canada and beyond, a generation found its poet, say Games organizers.

Powerfully engaging and authentic in attitude, his explorations are relevant to our times in the way that Joni Mitchell, Gordon Downie and Leonard Cohen are to theirs. But unlike the musicians that he’s often compared to, poets rarely infiltrate pop culture, organizers said.

Koyczan has emerged as the leader of a new wave of contemporary poetry that dares to belong to the people and speak directly to them in their own voice, organizers said.

Asani is also entertaining on the big stage. An Aboriginal women’s trio from Edmonton, they draw from their cultural heritage to create music that is accessible to a wide audience. The group includes Debbie Houle from the Elizabeth Metis Settlement, Sherryl Sewepagaham from the Little Red River Cree Nation and Sarah Pocklington from Edmonton.

Asani has performed across Canada and internationally at such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York, The Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. and the Saddledome in Calgary.

The local amateur performers include: members of Celtic Rhythm Dancers, Steps Ahead Dance Academy Dancers, O’Brien Irish Dancers, Carlson Dance Stomp Crew, Carlson’s Little Miss C’s and Carlow Rush, and the DDT Drumline, Summer Games song writer Lindsay Elzinga, and The Porter Brothers.

There will be a procession to the dais featuring the Cowichan Pipes and Drums, and the Legion Colour Guard and Cowichan Sparks, Brownies, and Guides.

Colourfully costumed City of Duncan Town Crier Benjamin Buss will provide a special welcome.

There will be a First Nations Welcome from Cowichan Chief William Seymour and the Cowichan Drummers before the Athletes’ Oath is read by the Valley’s Jada Lauzon.

Then, it’s time for the torchbearers to bring their excitement to the ceremony. Every camera in the vast venue is sure to be trained on them for this special moment.

The BC Games Alumni message will be presented this year by Olympian Brent Hayden.

The Cowichan 2018 BC Summer Games will take place at 27 venues throughout the Cowichan region from July 19-22.

With more than 3,000 athletes, coaches and officials taking part in these Games, and the average athlete being 14-years-old, expect to meet lots of families visiting the Valley and the Cowichan Lake area, perhaps for the first time.

For more information about the BC Games visit www.bcgames.org.

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