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Vaughan rolls out welcome mat for Pan Am torch
June 25, 2015
By Adam Martin-Robbins

Vaughan’s sporting spirit burned bright Wednesday as hundreds of revellers took to the streets to celebrate the Pan Am Games Torch Relay passing through the city.

The flame made its first stop at Kleinburg Public School just after 11:30 a.m.

Caroline Grech, a marathoner and former Vaughan Citizen reporter, carried the flame to the front entrance of the school where she was greeted by hundreds of local students waving handmade flags from the 41 countries taking part in the games.

“It was exhilarating. It was so exciting and Kleinburg is such a beautiful part of Vaughan to run through,” Grech, a Maple resident, said.

“It was very fast. Before I really got going we were already here at the school, but the students were amazing and so supportive.”

Grade 5 students Erika Bajc and Rachel Barbieri were thrilled to get the chance to see the torch relay.

“It was really fun and exciting,” Bajc, 10, said.

Barbieri, 11, echoed that sentiment.

“I thought it was really fun and exciting,” she said. “I just liked everything.”

Grech handed off the flame to fellow torchbearer Kiara Leber who ran it down Islington Avenue, before it was transported to historic Woodbridge village.

A cadre of torchbearers then carried the flame along Woodbridge Avenue, just a few blocks from where a shooting at a cafe, a few hours earlier, left two people dead and two injured.

The next stop was Vaughan city hall in Maple.

After torchbearers transported the flame along Major Mackenzie Drive, sportscaster Andi Petrillo proudly toted it for the final stretch to the cauldron lighting ceremony.

Along the way, Petrillo passed through a throng of raucous residents gathered in the civic square where a community celebration - featuring samba band, aboriginal performers, games and crafts - was in full swing.

“I think it’s pretty fun,” Usman Ahmed, 13, said of the celebration.

The Grade 8 student at Mackenzie Glen Public School hopes to watch basketball and soccer action when the games get underway July 10.

“It’s really great to have it (the torch relay) here in Vaughan,” said Mohiz Muhsini, a student at Mackenzie Glen Public School.

Vaughan MPP Steven Del Duca, who also serves as transportation minister, agrees “This is fantastic,” said Del Duca who joined Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and MP Julian Fantino for the official portion of the event. “What an extraordinary celebration for Vaughan, all of York Region and, frankly, for all of Ontario. With the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games coming there’s a quarter of a million visitors expected to the entire region, 10,000 athletes, officials and media affiliated with the games. It’s very, very, exciting for tourism, very exciting for supporting sports and I think there will be a huge economic uptick because of these games.”

From city hall the flame was whisked over to Canada’s Wonderland for a ride on the scorchingly fast Leviathan, the country’s tallest roller coaster.

“I’m really excited to be part of this,” said torchbearer Elora Tanna, who carried the flame out of the civic square en route to Wonderland.

After riding Leviathan, the flame passed through north Thornhill, making a brief stop at the celebration at the Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus, on Bathurst Street, before heading east to Richmond Hill where it finished off the day.