Mavis a fitting torchbearer
With the sun peeking out from behind a cover of clouds, a light drizzle falling on the thousands of people lined up inside the Fort National Historic Site, and the smell of smoke wafting in the air, the anticipation continued to build.
“Let’s get energized, the torch is coming,” pleaded Amn Johal, dressed in full costume from the 1800s and serving as the celebration’s emcee.
“Let’s make some noise so they know we are ready for them.”
That sent the crowd of about 3,000 or so people into a frenzied anticipation. There were also at least that many also lined up in and around Fort Langley and Walnut Grove.
The rhythmic sound of the Kwantlen First Nations drummers pounded in the air mixing with the claps and cheers for the crowd, and then finally the cracking sounds of a volley of shots from the historical re-enactors dressed as voyageurs, officially welcoming the Olympic torch relay inside the walls of the historic Fort.
The flame made its way along the path inside the Fort, stopping first at the Big House, the site where British Columbia was declared a colony back in 1858. It was carried in by Terri Orser, a military retiree who spent time as a peacekeeper.
Orser stood with the flame in front of the Big House, during a round of speeches, before making her way to the storehouse, where the flame was transferred to a lantern.
About a half hour later, Orser was back in front of the Big House, where her torch was re-lit and she then ignited the torch of the next runner, long-time local resident Bruce Mavis, whose family has a long and storied history in the area.
And when the torch left the walls of the Fort, it was only fitting that it would be carried out by Mavis.
Mavis’ great-grandfather had purchased the land from the Hudson’s Bay Company back in 1888 for $6,000.
Mavis only found out he would have the honour of carrying the torch as it passed outside the walls of the Fort a few hours earlier.
“I don’t usually get emotional, but this time I did,” he said about the honour.
He spoke to The Times later that afternoon, after he finished volunteering at the Langley Events Centre, site of another Olympic torch community celebration.
The 300-metre run went by rather quickly, and Mavis admitted to being sad to see it end.
His leg of the run ended at Mavis Avenue and River Road.
“But as you pass the torch along to the next person, you are so happy for them and what they are about to experience,” he said.
Orser was also surprised to have landed such a plum running route.
Like Mavis, she only found out that morning.
“I thought I was running across the parking lot,” she said.
“When I got through the gates, I could not believe how many (people there were), I almost lost my breath coming in. I was almost going to cry.”
Orser, who now lives in Sooke, had her sisters, some nephews and nieces and her step-dad watching her big moment
And while she only ran 300 metres, the run actually felt quite long.
“The torch is heavier than I expected,” she said. “So without trying to look wimpy, I kept switching hands.”
The day will be etched in her memory for a long time to come.
“Probably the coolest thing for me was watching the kids,” she said.
“The kids all wanted to shake my hand and hold the torch. It just showed that Canada has pulled together for the Olympics. It was a wonderful feeling.”