Skip to content

'Special' Ontario 55+ Winter Games a gold-medal success for Orillia

'Orillia showed itself to be a wonderful city that people can easily come to enjoy,' Mayor Don McIsaac says following last week's games
Pachi, the Ontario 55+ Winter Games mascot, is shown in downtown Orillia with volunteer Vicki Ball.

Organizers, volunteers and athletes are celebrating the success of the Ontario 55+ Winter Games this weekend.

Jenna French, chair of the games, which took place from Feb. 7 to 9, says it was a "special" event.

"I've had many athletes pull me aside to say these Winter Games were some of the best-organized games that they have been a part of," she said. "There wasn't a single person who didn't have a smile on their face."

About 850 athletes were impressed by local facilities such as the Orillia Recreation Centre.

"This was the first time we've used it for the Winter Games," French said. "The athletes thought it was really impressive for this area."

She says the execution of the event was top notch and fellow organizers and volunteers should be proud.

"All the right people were in all the right places. I think the athletes could feel that," she said.

The biggest challenge for organizers was working with a budget that was applied to the games in 2020.

"Obviously, the world has gone through a bit of an evolution since then," French said. "The price of everything went up, but we appreciate that the accommodations and caterers really worked with our budget to make it work."

Another challenge came with milder-than-usual temperatures for early February. Because of course conditions, Nordic skiing was cancelled by Horseshoe Resort.

"There were some disappointed athletes there," French said. "We did offer to move those athletes into different sports, and some of them did take us up on that."

Vincent McCormack was the flagbearer for District 17 during the Ontario 55+ Winter Games opening ceremonies Tuesday. | Tyler Evans/OrilliaMatters file photo

Mayor Don McIsaac says the event generated $1.5 million to $2 million for the local economy.

"I think we did very well," he said. "Orillia showed itself to be a wonderful city that people can easily come to enjoy."

He says the event would not have been possible without the 150 people from the area who volunteered.

"They did tremendous work to get it organized and going. It's a lot of work, so hats off to Jenna French and her team," he said.

French says athletes "sung the praises" of the accommodations in Orillia.

Fairfield by Marriott general manager Michelle Weber says about 60 athletes stayed at the hotel in west Orillia during the event.

"They were awesome," she said. "They were upbeat, professional, happy, clean and great guests. It was nice to have them at the hotel."

The Fairfield was almost completely booked every day of event.

"It certainly helped us," Weber said. "We had a solid week, and we absolutely would love to have the athletes back."

From talking with other hotel managers in Orillia, Weber says the games were a big boost to the entire industry locally.

Eclectic Café was the main caterer for the games. Co-owner and head chef Melanie Robinson says no meals were missed and the dietary needs of every athlete were fulfilled.

"It was a really great experience," she said. "We had one person say it was the best gluten-free meal that they have ever had at any games they've attended."

Accommodating the athletes led to Eclectic Café having its busiest week on record, providing 1,500 lunches, 400 breakfasts, a buffet for 375 athletes, and appetizers for 40 people during a VIP event.

"It gave our staff two full weeks of work at a notoriously slow time for the restaurant industry," Robinson said. "We are very happy about that."

Any surplus food from the event was donated to The Sharing Place Food Centre and The Lighthouse.

"It was very important to us that those community partners benefit from anything that we had an excess of," Robinson said. "It went to really good places."

She was impressed with the success of the event due to it being run solely by volunteers.

"Kudos to all the volunteers in Orillia who stepped up and showed outside participants what our city can do," she said. "It goes to show that Orillia is pretty awesome."

French hopes the games will return to the Sunshine City.

"I think Orillia is the perfect place for these games," she said. "I don't see why they wouldn't come back, and I would be surprised if we didn't host them again."


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
Read more