Wednesday, 24 August 2011 15:51

Residents from Kyle and surrounding area swarm to Kraft Celebration Tour

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By Aasa Marshall — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kyle may be the smallest community ever featured on the Kraft Celebration Tour, but the crowd that gathered for the live TSN broadcast was also one of the best.

On-air personalities Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, hosts of TSN’s SportsCentre, said they were blown away by the enthusiasm of the Kyle crowd. Organizers estimate more than 600 people were present for the filming of the live show Tuesday, during which the Kyle Recreation Board received a cheque for $25,000.

Organizers were especially impressed with the turnout considering Kyle, according to the last census, has a population of 423. Not only did the show draw a number of people from surrounding communities, it prompted farmers to leave their combines during the busy harvest season to support the event.

During the Kraft Celebration Tour, SportsCentre features 10 Canadian communities in 10 days; the communities chosen by votes received online.

Onrait and O’Toole started warming the crowd up early. Onrait in particular had boundless energy from the beginning of the broadcast until the end, keeping the audience laughing, chanting, and cheering. A number of the Saskatchewan Roughriders showed up for the event as well, signing autographs and dancing on stage before the start of the show; a crowd-pleaser especially for all of those who wore their green jerseys. Also seen in the crowd were a number of Kyle Elks jerseys, a nod to the town’s senior hockey team.

The day’s events and the show itself were largely based on Kyle’s agricultural nature, from a mini-rodeo in the hours before the broadcast to Onrait and O’Toole’s departure on a John Deere tractor.

The hour-long show contained a feature about local and legendary rodeo pick-up man Gary Rempel, his brother Wade and father John. The piece focused on a dramatic moment during the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton last year when Gary roped a bull as it leapt over the fence into the crowd. His actions likely saved people in the stands from injury or worse. The appearances of Gary, Wade, and John on-screen all received big cheers from the crowd.

Other features during SportsCentre included sports’ Top 10 Hair moments, in honour of Kyle’s mascot Wally the Woolly Mammoth, and a clip of Onrait “riding” a bull at the rodeo grounds (in fact, he sat on the bull inside the chute, followed by a clip of bull rider Jordan Laventure doing the actual ride).

Onrait and O’Toole also visited La Reata Ranch; a holiday ranch outside of Kyle, where they visited the saloon and rode horses. Another highlight of the trip, they said, was a visit to White Bear bar: upon discovering the nearby village pub is for sale, Onrait said he is tempted to buy it.

Visiting small towns and featuring local people in segments on the show is a unique opportunity, Onrait said after the filming, and is the reason the Kraft Celebration Tour is his favourite time of year.

“It’s our chance to tell stories about this country,” Onrait said. “We don’t have time to see our own country that much, none of us really do. This is a way to get paid to do it, and travel the country on
the road, really see the country … and meet the local people.”

O’Toole said they’ve found the Celebration Tour doesn’t work in large centres, and appreciates the small towns they get to visit.

“Kingston was our first-ever stop on the Kraft tour. It was the largest city we’ve gone to and we had probably the smallest crowd … smaller communities, they know how big an event like this is, so they wrap their arms around it, and they throw a party like they did today.”

The SportsCentre duo mentioned many times how impressed they were with Kyle’s crowd.

“We’re used to Saskatchewan crowds being really good, but it was even better than we expected,” said Onrait, who said their favourite stop on last year’s tour was Outlook, Sask. “It was one of the best crowds we’ve ever had in terms of having energy throughout the entire show.”

Jaclyn Davis, Kyle’s recreation director who submitted the town’s bid for the Celebration Tour, said she was thrilled with the final show, the number of people who showed up for the filming, and the volunteers who brought the event together.

The $25,000 will go towards the Kyle Community Sports Centre, which needs a number of upgrades. Davis said the money will go towards helping to make the facility more energy efficient: the rink needs new exterior doors, roof repairs, and new water heaters. The money will go a long way towards those goals.

Though the focus of the day was largely on Kyle’s rodeo culture, in the winter the town’s centre is the rink, and the community is known for its love of hockey.

“If it would have been held in the winter time we would have been more hockey, hockey, hockey, said Davis. “In the summer time we’re a farming and ranching community, so that’s what our focus was.”

Local volunteers worked long hours to set up for the event. David Lewis, from Kyle, said the windy day presented a bit of a challenge, but it all came together in time for the show.

“In true farmer fashion we improvised with some number nine wire and some yellow nylon rope and got things tied down,” said Lewis, who also drove Onrait and O’Toole away from the stage in a tractor.

Davis said the Kraft organizers were surprised an organizing committee of only five could arrange for nearly 70 volunteers to help out for the day. Reflecting on the event, she said she is extremely proud of her community.

“It’s nice to see people come together with such a positive outcome,” she said. “… It’s nice to have something very positive to look to, it’s something to be proud of not just now, but for years to come. Thank you to everyone that’s done what they can for this community sports centre since it was first built until now. I’m just extremely proud to be from Kyle.”

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