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Kindergarten student Gavin Flowers and Grade 1 student Kaylee Danculovic enjoy a visit with Pan Am Mascot Pachi the porcupine at Green Acres Elementary School in March.

Hamilton prepares for Pan Am party

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

Hamilton’s Pan Am 2015 officials are looking at enticing members of Cirque de Soleil, Juno-award winning musicians, and other high-level international performers to entertain residents and visitors when the city hosts the games next year.

As part of the 2015 Pan Am Games, where 32 soccer games will be played at 22,500-seat Tim Hortons Stadium, Hamilton will also put on a 16-day cultural festival that will stretch from the waterfront, the stadium to the downtown, said Greg Maychak, manager of the Pan Am Initiatives. It’s expected about 10,000 athletes and officials, along with 250,000 visitors will be making their way to the Golden Horseshoe to participate and watch the games.

“If we are very successful we will bring top-named entertainment to augment our 16-day festival,” said Maychak.

He said the city is working with Toronto 2015’s organizing officials to see if artists performing in Toronto will be available to tour other host cities, including Hamilton.

Maychak said members of the famed Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil are performing in the game’s Opening Ceremonies July 10, 2015 at the Rogers Centre. City officials are hoping a few members of the popular troop will play a show in Hamilton as well.

“We are hoping to leverage some top-name entertainment,” said Maychak.

In addition, Hamilton officials are talking with the Juno committee, along with local arts groups, to get Juno award-winning, or nominees to perform in the city during the games, said Maychak. He pointed out the Juno awards ceremonies will be hosted for a week by the city from March 9 to 15.

But Maychak pointed out that Hamiltonians could also see a number of international singers and dancers during the games who are household names in their own countries, but are little known inNorth America. For instance, the Grammy award-winning salsa group Los Van Van from Cuba, and Machel Montano from Trinidad and Tobago are performing in Toronto July 12 during the city’s one-year countdown to the Pan Am Games. Both performers are top draws in their own countries.

“There are some acts you may never see because of the cultural differences,” said Maychak.

He said local Hamilton entertainers will also have a chance to perform during the city’s cultural festival and even throughout the other Pan Am Game venues. Maychak said one day an act could play in Minden, or Oshawa, and the next day play in Hamilton.

“I certainly hope some of the entertainment can be here locally,” said Maychak.

Artists interested in performing during the games can register on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games website www.toronto2015.org.

Politicians earlier this month approved spending $600,000 to fund what is being called the Pan Am Games Host Showcase Program and Initiatives that will be held alongside the soccer games.

Overall, the city is contributing $60.5 million to the Pan Am Games, including $54.1 million for a new stadium, $4 million for enabling works, and another $2.4 million to replace Brian Timmis stadium.

Meanwhile, as the group Rising Star, with Hamiltonian Errol Starr, played some sweet reggae tunes live at the Tourism Hamilton downtown office June 17 in the Lister Block building, the city’s Pan Am 2015 committee unveiled its two-day one-year to the Pan Am Games event next month.

On July 12, the public is invited to gather on the Pier 8 waterfront for a blow out video and dance party called “Light up the Night.” Evelyn Myrie, acting chair Pan Am Games Hamilton Host committee, said the event will be “a fiesta to remember.”

The next day, to coincide with the World Cup, Hamiltonians can watch the final championship game for free on a LED HD jumbo screen. The event, which is to get the public excited about next year, and create a long-lasting “buzz” will feature food, music, flags and other cultural activities. Maychak said the festivities will feature the cultural and artistic entertainment of the two teams playing for the trophy.

“Soccer and culture are one and the same,” he said. “We want to create that buzz of 16 days of a whole lot of fun.”

Hamilton Pan Am officials are still looking for more volunteers to assist during the games scheduled for July 10 to 26. They have already received about 1,200 submissions, and are looking for another 300 people. For the entire games about 20,000 volunteers are needed, said Darryl McKenzie, vice-president of volunteer services for Toronto 2015.

If the atmosphere in the Lister Block was any indication of the anticipation for the event with the soulful music playing, the aroma of the Mexican food, the colourful clothes and the flashing red glasses, then Hamiltonians are in for the party of their lives, said Mayor Bob Bratina.

“We are going to celebrate like no other time in our history,” he said.

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