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Celebrating sports

Posted on September 16, 2015 by Dale Woodard
Photo by Dale Woodard Troy Vincent is the creator of Lethbridge SportFest, which makes its debut Saturday with an aim to give attendees a taste of some lesser-known sports.

This event is for the lesser-known sports.
The first Lethbridge SportFest is slated to take place Sept. 19 at the Enmax Centre.
With the likes of hockey, football and basketball not needing an introduction in southern Alberta, the inaugural event which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free to the public will focus on the lesser-known sports and on giving Lethbridge SportFest attendees a hands-on experience in the process.
“I think I just wanted to give back to the community in some way and creating this free event was a great way to do it,” said Troy Vincent, creator/president of Lethbridge SportsFest. “I had been involved in a variety of sports and I thought of trying to highlight the lesser-known sports. We all know hockey, figure skating and soccer and that’s great. They’re great sports and I’ve played them. But we want to highlight the lesser-known ones, too.”
With an athletic past of his own that includes taekwon-do, Vincent speaks from experience.
“One of my experiences was physically touching a speed skate for the first time. It was brought to me at school and I never would have considered going to try speed skating and all of a sudden I did and made Team Alberta and suddenly (I was) competing internationally. It wouldn’t have happened without that little moment right there. So I thought what if we created an event like this where we can have 100 different moments like that and who knows what will come of it?
“Not everyone is wowed by a particular sport, but maybe that’s the only one they’re exposed to, so they decide ‘I don’t want to do sports.’ But maybe they haven’t come across one that maybe will inspire them and this event can hopefully do that for them.”
Interactive exhibits for the one-day event will include a ringette accuracy challenge, a bowbenders archery range, bowling and a demonstration with Lethbridge Barracudas lacrosse.
Among the sports demonstrations will be martial arts, cheerleading, parkour, gymnastics and yoga.
That hands-on, interactive environment will be key with Lethbridge SportFest.
“It’s just going to be a big gathering and trade show of sports, fitness and health, wellness and nutrition as well,” said Vincent. “It’s really interactive. I don’t like going to trade shows and just walking around and getting a pamphlet and leaving. We wanted to make it really engaging and have kids and adults get active. We have archery, bowling and ringette, so that’s going to be really neat. The demo area of sports (will show) organizations and also the athletes what they can do as well as guests celebrating local athletes who have achieved something at the national and international level.”
On hand as guest speakers will be recently retired mixed martial arts fighter Jordan Mein, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Jim Steacy, nationally top-ranked male racquetball player Coby Iwaasa, International Taekwon-do Federation sixth-degree black belt Brandi Merritt, 2014 Canadian Junior National weight-lifting bronze medalist Bayleigh Fleming and muay thai, jiu jitsu and Systema instructor Paul Pisko, an amputee who trained in mixed martial arts before his leg was crushed by a truck.
“Jordan is going to be involved there,” Vincent said of Mein. “It’s going to be a great conversation delving into why he retired in his mid-20s. So it could be a really great moment of SportFest.”
Steacy will attend the event with his hammer, said Vincent.
“How many kids get to go and actually see the device he’s whipping down the field? So that’s going to be cool.”
Fleming will also offer some insights on the finer points of her sport as well.
“She’s amazing,” said Vincent. “So she’s going to be there talking about how she got into it, what it involves and she’s going to do a demonstration for us. She’s going to do some power lifting.”
Vincent trained under Merritt.
“She actually coached me to a gold medal in 2010 as a blue belt champion of Canada. It’s just a testament to her coaching ability. I’m excited to have her as a guest and do a demo as well.”
The hope going forward is for Lethbridge SportFest to become an annual event, or even a twice-yearly event, said Vincent.
“I’m going to speak to the sport organizations, they’re the heartbeat, and see what they want. Does is become a dual-festival? Do we do one in the spring and in the fall? The options are there, keep celebrating local guests, but also bring in other high-profile guests as the event grows and have athletes come in and tell really great stories and inspire people to go and achieve greatness in whatever they do.”
The Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame will have a display set up at Lethbridge SportFest and Vincent said he hopes to have a trophy display of 100-year-old-plus sports trophies from the Galt Museum.
In addition to hosting a shootout competition, the Lethbridge Hurricanes hockey team will also be offering dressing room tours and giving out prizes for free season tickets.
Also up for grabs at Lethbridge SportFest are Flames tickets complete with hotel reservations, while a dollar from every Smoothie will to towards a registration draw to help a youth who may not have the financial means to participate in a sport.
For more information on Lethbridge SportFest, visit http://www.sportfest.ca/.

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