The Saskatchewan First Nations Winter Games came to a close on Friday, and though organizers and athletes had a fun week of sports, many of them were happy to wrap things up and get some rest.
Games manager Reinetta Morningchild said organizers ran into a few hurdles on Monday, but once they were addressed, her staff got into a groove and the rest of the week went smoothly.
“After Monday, Tuesday was awesome. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all awesome,” said Morningchild at the closing ceremonies, which were held at the Onion Lake Arena.
“We kind of fixed all of our problem areas on Monday and now on Friday we’re closing it and everybody is glad to go home—so yeah, we’re great.”
Morningchild and her fellow organizers had everything planned out to a tee, but when Monday rolled around and things kicked off, the strategies were really put to the test.
Despite having the best laid plans, there was no option for rehearsal, so when problems arose they had to think on their feet.
There were a few hiccups with the food line, gaming schedules and volunteers dropping out, but once these areas were adjusted everything moved along without much trouble.
“Our volunteers, they plan, they have good hearts and they want to help but it’s the last minute things like family emergencies and being sick. But once we put it out on social media that we needed volunteers, people started calling in,” Morningchild said.
“People are amazing; we had people from businesses in Lloydminster that were calling and we had a whole bunch of people from Onion Lake that wanted to help.”
There were also a few cases where some older athletes who were of legal age on the Alberta side of the Border City imbibed a bit, but they were promptly dealt with and sent home from the games.
Morningchild said there is a zero tolerance for alcohol at the games, and this rule was strictly enforced.
“RCMP were amazing; we had a whole bunch of chaperones and our own security patrolling the areas and picking up the students that were trying to run away and they just transported them back,” she said.
“They were shipped home the next day, so they weren’t able to play, there’s zero tolerance for alcohol in these games.”
Pulling off a large event comes with many stresses and being the games manager had Morningchild shouldering the brunt of many of them.
She said when everything looks like it’s going great from an attendee’s perspective, that means there is a whole team behind the curtain making it all happen.
Because she was the games manager, she spent much of her week on the phone trying to address various concerns from all of the venues.
“I was getting phone call after phone call, I was getting pushed this way and that way, just the negative people that were coming around,” she said.
“I had to deal with the complaints from the whole games — so that was pretty fun, it was emotional and nerve racking.”
Morningchild inevitably had to take a break at one point, and when she saw how all the hard work and stress were being put to good use, she was able to approach the rest of the week with a bouncier step.
“The tribal councils said, ‘You know what? You’re doing great. The kids are having fun,’” she said.
“I didn’t see it because I was dealing with all the stuff that needed to be fixed — so I took two hours off then after that I went to go and look and sure enough — kids happy. Parents happy. Grand parents happy.
“It was amazing.”
The City of Lloydminster also helped make things run swimmingly, with Morningchild also praising the hotels and venues.
She said the facilities never became too crowded and there was always plenty of room for parking, and with roughly 5,000 athletes moving around, she said these things were significant.
The happy faces of the kids and parents were amazing to her, she said, and she was happy to hear some words of encouragement from Mayor Rob Sauners.
“He said he’s never seen so many people in Lloydminster— he was absolutely amazed,” she said.
“So all the work put into this, I had the greatest team ever; with a big event like this you’re going to have little hurdles to go over, but they were few and far between and it turned out great.”
The Saskatchewan First Nations Winter Games started off with a bang on March 27 with its opening ceremonies, but the closing on Friday was much more modest.
A little celebration was held with medals being awarded and an honour song for the athletes who participated, but Morningchild said everyone involved was exhausted and wanted to go home for some rest.
“Come closing ceremonies everybody is just like, ‘I want to go home. I’m tired. My feet hurt. I’ve been skating and jumping,’” she said with a laugh.
“We just want to do it quick, say our closing remarks and thank everybody for attending the games and we’ll see you at the next ones.”
The next winter games will be held in 2018, but a hosting city has yet to be chosen.