Extra underwear, three pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, two shirts, two sweaters, one wind breaker, one jacket, extra mitts, touque, heavy boots, a hockey jersey and one great big smile. “I feel like I’m in Hawaii,” says Pam Cholak. She and her two children – Zack and Alyssa – stand affront a crowd of flag waivers on a clear Edmonton night, the very front. However, spirits are only getting higher as the mercury drops lower, and the Olympic torch draws nearer.
Edmontonians are a hearty people. They cheer for their hockey team during a ten game losing streak. They read “second coldest place on Earth” and feel regret they were only ‘second’ coldest. They miss shoveling the walks during tropical vacations. When most people would be isolated by the winters, Edmontonians rally behind it.
A trait that is immediately apparent as suddenly, the crowd begins to stir and jeer. The most iconic winter symbol of all enters the grounds: an Edmontonian protected by layers of warm clothes, carrying an undying flame to the centre of the stage. Kids and parents alike line the centre isle. Jubilation erupts when the torchlight reflects in their eyes.
“It’s great seeing all these people around,” says Truman Giant. Visiting from Slave Lake to see the Olympic torch come to the provincial capital, Truman feels at home. “I just like the winter so much. It’s refreshing.” Turning back to Pam I ask if all her layers are keeping her warm.
“I only need three things to keep me warm,” she says as the flame is transferred to the dais. “Alberta blood, Olympic spirit, and the smiles on my kids faces.