White Rock ready for torch

The Royal Hudson arrived in White Rock right on schedule Monday afternoon

With just days left before the Olympic torch arrives, organizers are putting finishing touches on next week’s celebrations.

Plans include the Royal Hudson steam train arriving Monday; welcoming torch relay runners and a pancake breakfast featuring Peninsula Olympians Tuesday; and a big community party Friday to kick off the Games in style.

Oh, and the white rock in front of its namesake’s city hall has been painted red, in case your Olympic spirit could use a further boost.

The rock, in a limited-time new look unveiled Thursday, is emblazoned with maple leaves and the legend ‘believe’ by White Rock artist Elizabeth Hollick.

“It’s one of our little surprises as part of the Spirit of B.C. initiative spearheaded by Andrea Keen and her committee,” White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson said.

“We’re encouraging businesses to participate in painting the town red by decorating their stores,” she added. “We’re excited to be part of this. We’ll have the rock like this for a few days – and then we’ll be painting it back to white.”

The torch is set to arrive on the Peninsula Feb. 9 at 6:12 a.m. and makes its stop at Peace Arch Park around 7:30 a.m., where Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell will be on hand for a flame-blessing ceremony by Semiahmoo First Nation.

At White Rock’s pancake breakfast, which begins at 7:30 a.m. as the torch relay leaves the city, Olympic athletes – and local residents – Bev Boys, Elaine Tanner, Janice Birch, Lynn Kanuka, Mary Benson and Sandy Hartley will be on hand to sign autographs.

Hosted by White Rock firefighters, the breakfast will be held at the White Rock Community Centre (15154 Russell Ave.). It runs until 10:30 a.m. and will feature music and dance performances by students from White Rock, H.T. Thrift, Peace Arch and Ray Shepherd elementary schools.

In addition to boosting Olympic spirit in advance of the Games – which open Feb. 12 – the breakfast is also a fundraiser for the firefighters, who are raising money for Variety Children’s Charity of B.C.

The Royal Hudson’s appearance will add a touch of history to the local Olympic experience, notes BNSF Railway’s Gus Melonas. The train will provide a noble backdrop to the torch’s arrival at Peace Arch Park Tuesday, before picking up passengers at the White Rock museum for a return trip to Vancouver.

Anticipation has sparked “hundreds” of calls, and thousands of spectators are expected to line the waterfront to share in the excitement, Melonas said, reminding those turning out to maintain a safe distance from the track, as the train throws steam and oil.

Local artists are also getting in on the Olympic excitement, creating handmade tiles to be given to volunteers, Olympians and visitors as thank-you gifts from the White Rock Spirit of BC committee.

Ceramic artists Lilemore Frantz and Arlene McGowan have created a 4×2½-foot ceramic mural of the White Rock waterfront, which will be sliced into tiles inscribed with a message thanking the recipients for their Olympic involvement.

In addition to painting the city hall rock red, graffiti-removal company Goodbye Graffiti has been voluntarily restoring defaced business dumpsters and stencilling them with a red maple leaf.

On Feb. 12, from 5:30-9 p.m., White Rock’s Spirit of BC committee and BIA will host a free family celebration at White Rock Community Centre to mark the Games’ opening ceremonies.

For more information on local Olympic events, visit www.tourismwhiterock.com

North of the Peninsula, at Surrey’s Holland Park (King George Highway and Old Yale Road) will be bustling with Olympic festivities starting that same evening.

The Surrey Celebration Site will feature a plethora of free entertainment daily throughout the Games, with the exception of Mondays and Tuesdays when the site will be closed.

Blue Rodeo, Sam Roberts, 54-40 and Randy Bachman are just a few of the many performers to take the stage throughout the 13-day festival, and live Olympic event coverage will be broadcast on giant screens.

Visit www.surrey2010.com for complete listing of events at the celebration site.

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